May 15, 2013 § Leave a Comment
In thinking about practices of sustainability at my library we’re good, bad, and sometimes ugly. For instance, let’s admit the ugly up front: our circa 1999 building is chilly year round. Thus, many of us run space heaters in our cubbies, offices, immediate work areas to keep the frostbite at bay. Terrible, I know, all that energy use when I should wear a snuggie instead. And we’re consummate recyclers, but I attribute that to our acute state of fiscal distress. We rarely have new padded mailers for books or materials, so when ILLs are returned to lending libraries they’re popped & secured by yards of tape into distressed packages that have traveled across the region several times.
Thrift is always a sustainable idea.
But the “more is less” idea is applicable to fashion and accessories and library website, not providing more services with less money, which seems like the status quo. Thus, less is more is unsustainable when it comes to providing value in learning and literacy in regards to libraries their services, programs, collections, etc.
February 27, 2012 § Leave a Comment
My information literacy/LI/BI/research strategies load isn’t a heavy as some librarians. But, this spring I’ve spoken to eleven (count ‘em) department chairs about how we can “embed” in their curriculum or serve their disciplines better. Perhaps target specific courses in research methods and automatically have faculty contact us regarding library instruction for students enrolled in those courses. I know, that sounds like a given for most academic libraries, but my organization has dealt with dozens of years of disorganization and unaccountability and while it’s sort of not my problem or responsibility, because we have a flat organization, I’m taking responsibility for getting our library instruction program in order.
We’re kind of like the English department in that each librarian has her own pedagogy that she follows in the classroom. And we like that freedom. Otherwise we
Turn. Into. Robots. With. Our. Delivery.
But since talking to the head of Literature & Languages and committing our small cadre of librarians (single digit number here, folks) to teaching info lit to 93 sections of ENGL 1010 and ENGL 1020 in the fall semester…. well, we must agree on uniform delivery.
And that means that my snake oil show might get cut from my regular repertoire. I hope not. Because what I do, that’s so different from what other librarians at my organization do, and perhaps other academic libraries as well, is that I give a bit of library literacy first. It all started kind of because at a faculty meeting several of my colleagues bitched about our identity problem on campus. Nobody knows what we do. Nobody acknowledges our value. So, if we don’t communicate it, then they won’t know.
Librarians are a humble bunch. At least, the gang I work around. I’m not. Surely there are others who are not. It stems from our profession’s feminized origins. We all suffer from “good girl syndrome” and can’t bring attention to ourselves. Having the Dean of Libraries school incoming faculty about us at new faculty orientation in August–that librarians are tenure track, have academic rank, publish, etc.–was embarrassing.
I ground the students, and their instructor/professor, in the basics of why the library exists, what librarians do, why we do it, how we do it/how we’re specially trained to do it, and how we’re valuable to them.
So I point out that librarians want to serve and help, especially when you’re frustrated. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re in the building or at home, because we have chat, text, etc. And I talk about our various degrees and training and how we’re skilled in solving problems and finding answers. How we love mysteries, crosswords, forensic detective shows. I mention how many of us got into the profession because we love books, but that others were drawn into it because we value intellectual freedom. Then I discuss what intellectual freedom means and how it applies to their research and time at the university. I discuss how we provide access to information and resources to a variety of communities. That we do it mostly digitally these days. We understand that many cannot get to the library during our business hours, nor do they work the best. Maybe their biorhythms have them creating a paper at 4 a.m. and our ebook collections can accommodate them. They have busy lives filled with school, work, family, social obligations, and their most valuable thing is time.
We, as librarians, save them time in a myriad of ways.
Then, once I reveal the concept of librarians’ work as time-saving for students, I weave this through the rest of my presentation/demonstration of finding books, articles, etc.
I show a lovely graphic novel image of two women fighting and talk about how, besides saving you time, librarians fight for your rights. Right to read, right to privacy, and then give examples of instances that occurred on our campus. I also reference a couple of episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit that have scenes in libraries. I tell them that librarians would never share patron records with police or FBI/CIA. That our ILS are set up specifically not to track those histories. While I love L&O, those shows are desperately in need of a librarian consultant to get those library scenes and privacy issues depicted correctly.
Then I show a photo of a geographic anomaly that resembles a huge pile of crap. And I teach them the CRAP mnemonic. I wasn’t smart enough to devise it, but another librarian did. CRAP stands for currency, reliability, authority, and purpose/POV. I mention that if they go through the CRAP test for every article they find on the web they spend a lot of time doing that. But, if they use the databases that we select for them, and that their tuition dollars pay for (and I also mention that while their tuition increases yearly, the library’s budget hasn’t increased in years), they won’t waste their time and they’ll get a return on their investment (ROI).
Next, I seal the deal with a photo of Neil Gaiman, who most don’t know, but 1 in 100 knowingly acknowledge, along with his famous quote:
Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.
Then I close the deal by letting them know our outcomes. They’ll learn to do a lit search, navigate the interlibrary loan process, and generate a bibliography via Refworks. The last item, I always talk about the time element again. When you have lots of time on the front end doing your research, import your citations into Refworks so that when you’re crunched for time at the end, all you have to do is two or three mouse clicks and your bibliography magically appears and that saves you time and the odious nit-picky detail work associated with periods, commas, parentheses, and everything else that must be in place for the bib/works cited/references.
Almost forgot. I tell them how informal I am and that they should jump in with their questions. And that there’s a survey I ask that they fill out at the end since we’re undergoing SACS re-accreditation. I also try to defy typical librarian stereotypes as well.
February 22, 2012 § Leave a Comment
A few months ago I stumbled upon a new bookstore, virtually. It exists in Pennsylvania, and I hope to visit it someday. How I learned about it, I cannot recall, but I signed up to receive their newsletter in which they highlight recently received books at their store. In the meantime, I look forward to its fabulous newsletters. Hearts & Minds Books describes itself as “unabashedly Christian” but also “different than most religious bookstores.” And I so agree.
As a long-time recovering preacher’s daughter, who rarely steps foot in religious-affiliated (oftentimes my fingers type afflicted instead of affiliated; must be a Freudian slip) bookstores, the newsletters and thoughtful reviews of books, as well as their selection of books are so appealing. I order from them often. As an example, two of the books they promoted, that hadn’t crossed my radar were The Mind and the Machine: What it Means to be Human and Why it Matters and The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. Reader, I bought them. And others as well. Such as Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir. Love, love, love memoir and biography. People fascinate me. Peeking into their lives, their motivations, triumphs and failures reinforces the universality of our human condition.
Another book mentioned in their newsletter’s year end round-up of best books of 2011 was Raised Right: How I Untangled my Faith from Politics by Alisa Harris. So yeah, as much as I support indie bookstores of all stripes, I try not to buy every book I want. This one I borrowed from the public library. And I thought I had it rough as a preacher’s child. Note: I loathe the word kid, unless it’s used properly referencing juvenile goats.
Harris was homeschooled and made fun of the sorrowful, secular creatures such as myself who attended public schools. She grew up picketing abortion clinics and was taught the Four Killer Questions, a rhetorical trick used to frustrate secular humanists or Democrats or basically anyone who held opposing viewpoints. The questions were:
What do you mean by that?
How do you know what you’re saying is true?
What difference does it make in your life?
What if you are wrong and you die?
She was belligerent and unlikable until she had a LIBRARY experience. She worked at library one summer whilst home from college with a bunch of heathens who liked books. She liked books, too, by the way. She ended up having fun, even befriending her co-workers who dressed funny. One day she realized she was at peace. She’d lost the “compulsion to argue people into worldview compliance.” She says:
Although our Christian friends exhorted us to do our duty by creating conflict where there was none, I never unleashed the Four Killer Questions. I didn’t chide my friends for swearing or sinning, I abandoned the need to be always, forever, noting how other people were wrong.
A few sentences later she reveals:
For once, I just wanted to care about people as people—not as enemy combatants, potential converts, or notches in my holy belt of truth.
And THAT, my friends, is the power of the library as a place of peace. As library workers as people of compassion and love. Well, and swearing and sinning a little bit, too, according to Harris. But, it helped her re-direct her energy and endeavors from those originating from conflict and anger to ones of caring and love. It’s interesting to find the library’s role as a place or space of healing and peace in the lives of people. I didn’t expect to encounter that at all in this book and it was such a pleasant surprise. Dead Dad writes at Inside Higher Ed this morning about the cockles of his heart warming because the library at his community college set aside quiet study space. Quiet can be a respite in our world gone mad. Libraries have the power to heal all sorts of wounds. Librarians as nurses to the wounded souls. How can we serve? No doubt that is more than what many signed on for.
Well, it’s also the true power of love, which may or may not emanate from the library, but should come from your higher power/source/Jesus/God/Buddha/Allah.
So, I haven’t finished this memoir yet. But, it’s quite good. Harris intrigues me. She has/had a hard on for Ronald Reagan. There probably won’t be any other library bits inside, and that’s sad.
July 14, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Do you know where you’re headed, professionally? Are you starting out in librarianship? A few years onto the path? mid-career? Nearing retirement? Or just wish you could retire?
Admittedly, I’m at a weird spot in my career. I’m embarking into a new direction, scholarly communication, but instead of focusing completely on this new service it was added it to my reference, instruction, and outreach duties, most of which I’d gladly give up in order to concentrate on this one area. And as time passes, it may be that shucking those more traditional services becomes easier.
As such, I haven’t developed a professional development or research plan, and don’t need to at this point, since our ad hoc team meets weekly as we make decisions regarding the naming and branding of our IR. But, this new direction has set me thinking about assessing my research priorities as well as developing other skills. For example, I don’t know XML, so my colleague recommended I turn autodidactic and look through our Safari collection for an eBook on the topic so I’ll be up to speed to help her with those backend functions when that time arrives.
Obviously, reading my way to success is one way of plotting a roadmap to success, or skill attainment. Umair Haque writes that putting what, why, and who you love ahead of what, why, and who you don’t helps your roadmap write itself. What he means by that is simple: injecting meaning into everything we attempt, or finding the meaning, the why in what we do.
When your roadmap is cobbled together haphazardly it leads you down blind alleys, into impassable hedgerows, and deadfalls like the kind you read about in those Stephen King novels (oh it was that one about the dead baby coming back to life Pet Sematary).
Is there meaning in your library practice? Was there ever? What lead you to librarianship? I love books and information, had worked in libraries as a paraprofessional, but mostly understood the power the (public) library had to change people’s lives for the better and I wanted to be a part of that.
Mindful construction of your roadmap will benefit your library practice and set you on the path that is right for you to follow in meeting your vision of librarianship. Haque says you have to own it, live it, eat it, sleep it, even get down in the mud and roll around with your roadmap because–and I’m extrapolating–it will lead you to your best librarian self:
The roadmap you need to follow is deeply, resonantly, profoundly, and irrevocably your own — the one that calls to you in every dreary meeting, every missed birthday, and every misplaced-but-not-quite-forgotten dream. It’s the one that leads you to your better self. It says: “Follow my lead. Let’s go somewhere that matters — not just somewhere that glitters.”
July 8, 2011 § 2 Comments
Read an article at Harvard Business Review yesterday a.m. called Why Some People Have All the Luck. Anthony Tjan says that lucky people have the right attitude (nevermind all those idea killers with their bad attitudes who dampen moods and throw wrenches into cultures of curiosity and creativity). Luck attracts luck. It’s all a part of that theory of wishing that things will happen and then they do. One of three aspects the lucky possess is intellectual curiosity. Here’s how Tjan couches it:
Intellectual curiosity is an active response to humility. Humility gives people the capacity to be intellectually curious. Conversely, people who are fully confident or arrogant are less likely to question their personal assumptions and outlook of the world. Business builders who are intellectually curious hold a voracious appetite to learn more about just about anything. They devour reading, listen to suggestions, and explore new ideas at a much higher rate than others. They are more frequently asking questions than trying to answer them. Ultimately they become luckier because they are more willing to meet new people, ask new questions, and go to new places.
So what does this have to do with librarians, libraries, and librarianship?
One of the first things we learn as librarians is that we cannot know the answers to every question, and that in itself requires humility. However, our LIS/SIS training endows us with the skills to locate those answers. Having open minds, loosening our curiosity, and putting our Miss Marple, Monsieur Poirot, or Encyclopedia Brown on the trail of the articulated reference questions leads librarians on professional paths to luck.
Naturally, while at the reference desk, we meet new people who ask us new questions. We in turn ask them new questions. Sometimes, we travel to new places, at least in our minds, and explore new subjects and gain new expertise, at least at the surface level–and that’s adequate for government work.
But perhaps you know librarians who are stuck in a rut? Who don’t explore new areas; they have three or four pet subjects and dare not venture out from those disciplines, much less consider thinking across disciplines? Yikes! Is there hope? Can we cultivate curiosity? It is a personality trait. But yes, Virginia, there is hope. You can try new dishes at restaurants, explore new areas of knowledges (which librarians do daily–duh!), break your routine, and find new peer groups.
Peter Bromberg writes about cultivating cultures of curiosity in organizations, i.e., libraries, but doesn’t give step-by-step instructions. Mostly, he reveals this must be a shared value. And so it seems that library teams should work as a group in some type of team-building activity to mind-meld into their creative culture if there isn’t one. Still working on ideas for those, though.
Yet… the Bamboo Project Blog offers ideas along this vein–she also cites Peter B.– like encouraging beginners mind, personal reflection, spending time with preschoolers, and thinking about big questions.
Curiously, Todd Henry, also at HBR, suggests the more stimuli we take in, the more creative we become. He’s probably a secret librarian. I like his idea about compiling bibliography:
Curating a reading list of stimulating articles and books is a great way to forge new neural connections that are likely to yield creative insights. Recording observations can also reveal serendipitous connections.
Coincidentally, within three or four days of each other two different people mentioned the same book, Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, as a starting place for transformation. Naturally, I applied this to transformation of library culture, though one of them, Brian Mathews mentioned it in that regard. If you’re curious and asking why, then Start With Why seems like the obvious place. James Kelley, Education Technology Consultant for Apple, mentioned it at a RODP mobilization initiative in reference to higher education, or K-12, even, at an event I attended prior to ALA, and then Mathews cites it in his Ubiquitous Librarian post, “Why does my library use social media?” at the Chronicle.
While most rote directional reference questions bore us, occasionally one piques our intellect, stirs our curiosity, and may challenge our assumptions of the world. Libraries as place offer a ripe environments for lifelong learning both as centers for on-the-job professional development for librarians and for the regular folk who luxuriate in our space.
Anyway, this HBR article resonated with me because it relates so well with my post two days ago about curiosity and how reading broadly outside of your professional literature, no matter what profession you work within is imperative for innovation and professional development.
July 6, 2011 § 2 Comments
The third and fourth week of June I was in New Orleans along with about 18,000 other librarians at ALA. Attendance was down, and I know not why because Nola is the BEST conference city ever and ALA ain’t coming back there–maybe after 2017?
Librarians were easily spotted by prey. The red ALA bag gave them away. And many, despite being warned by ALA literature still wore their conference badges around their necks outside of Morial CC which gave their names, place of work, and city of origins, making them easy marks for mugging or busking or whatnot. Spotting them navigating the streetcars was easy–they held maps up to their noses. They staggered onto the streetcars drunkenly, despite not having imbibed cocktails. Librarians, please!
Methinks the humidity unbalanced them. Bartenders commented: “There are librarians in town this week.” And we outed ourselves, to that bartender, because it wasn’t readily apparent that we belonged to that group. Ahem. Dermatologists however, party hearty, have fabulous skin, and much whiter teeth than librarians do. Librarians, take note: Whiten your teeth and dermabrasion.
Curiously, librarians were better dressed than in years past. I didn’t spot the first matching full skirt and floral sweater ensemble typical of 1980′s-era children’s librarians. I should have been an anthropologist or sociologist because I revel in watching the members of my profession flock and flow and flaunt themselves at annual conferences.
As with most professions, people from all subcultures and lifestyles are drawn to librarianship so there are goth librarians, emo librarians, trendy librarians, messenger-bag librarians, roller derby librarians, frump librarians, metro-sexual librarians, suit-wearing librarians, frump librarians, librarians on the verge-of-retirement, sensible-shoe wearing librarians, and geeked-out librarians. There are cool librarians, not-so-cool librarians, and those who fall in-between.
At this ALA, there was a call, a search for America’s Most Glamorous Librarian. They have a facebook page where they posted photos of librarians. Take a look-see. Granted, some posed in cocktail attire at fancy events. Who knew there were fancy events at ALA? Perhaps the votes are being tallied still and no person was named America’s Most Glamorous Librarian, yet.
Then there’s Librarian Wardrobe. I tried uploading a photo of my ALA-friendly Danskos via my iPad, but couldn’t. Someday I might submit.
Lots of folks concern themselves with how librarians dress and how this affects professional identity. As well it should. Did your read Laura Sloan Patterson’s Chronicle article about how academics typically don’t concern themselves with matters of style, but that they should because as a student Patterson
considered my professors’ clothing a key part of the curriculum, integrated into the content of their lectures, the ways they interacted with students, and their very individuality.
Good for you if you read the Chronicle because it demonstrates that you’re inching your way outside of the narrow niche of library literature. And if you steep yourself in library literature, like Steven Bell says, you’re not promoting professional development, and may in fact promote professional stagnation. But even better for you if, like me, you read Vogue. Because, apparently too few librarians read Vogue. Seriously though, I take it for granted that librarians are curious and love learning. I assume that all librarians love to read outside of librarianship, but maybe they don’t, because some of the greatest library innovations come from the intersection of two very different worlds. Like, perhaps Fashion and Librarianship.
One of the librarians at my table at the ALA preconference I attended checked her email and announced her Living Social perk (or whatever–I don’t do Living social, so what do I know? right?).
“Twelve Botox ampoules?! What can I do with those?“
“Share them with us?” I said.
She stared at me.
“Or use them all on your underarms. Okay. It’s hot. We’re in New Orleans. We’re sweaty. Botox injected into your underarms prevents hyperhidrosis.“
Of course, I didn’t use the technical term. I’m sexing my dialogue up for this blog post.
This was news to them, the five or six librarians seated at my table, none of whom, apparently read Vogue, where I’m sure I picked up this tidbit of beauty-related knowledge. You see, Vogue is not just for looking at the photo spreads.
So, I’m not saying that Botox and Librarianship will lead to an innovation. But, my knowledge gathered from my outside reading provided an immediate answer to a librarian’s question of “what can I do with twelve Botox ampoules?”
That’s what I call Rapid Response Reference.
June 11, 2011 § 1 Comment
Not sure whether I’ve come out as male or female on this blog since I’m ambiguous about my real identity. I’ve left hints here and there in blog posts. I should own this blog. That’s another post, though.
Given all the hubbub about V.S. Naipul and his surety about identifying a writer’s sex/gender from a few sentences of his or her prose, and that Social Times sent a link to The Gender Genie in my inbox a few moments ago, I thought I’d play along. This isn’t the first time my writing has been analyzed either for traces of gender or “which writer do you write like?” But I cannot recall who I wrote like. I pasted various passages and mostly the results indicated I was male.
As did the Gender Genie: