Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My Journey So Far, Or 500 Posts and Counting



It's so hard for me to believe that this is the 500th post on this blog. It all started years ago because I got angry, and that fact hasn't really altered, but so much else has changed. Here are some things that I've notice along the way:
  1. It's okay to get angry, but I need to do something with my anger. I used to think it was useless to get angry, even in the midst of my ire. I also know part of my reticence to show anger had to do with the inescapable socialization that women are supposed to be nice. It's okay to get angry, but more to the point: it's important to get angry. Being silent can be seen as agreement, so taking a stand is important. I've come to see speaking up as part of my job, both at my place of employment and in the profession in general.
  2. There are like minded people everywhere, just not always right next to me. Writing hundreds of posts, tweeting like a maniac, and generally being myself has brought so many amazing people into my life. Of my closest friends, people who I consider not just friends but family, the unmistakable majority of them are people I met through social media and through blogging. When I started this blog, I was definitely working with some great people, but beyond having "library" or "librarian" in our job titles we didn't have a lot in common. All of that changed over the course of this blog.
  3. Mistakes are the best learning opportunities. I never set out to waste time or flub a project, but I can tell you I've learned more from my mistakes than anything else. Best of all, I've learned that being open about my mistakes can save other people a lot of headache and heartache. There were times that I ran events where it almost seemed the staff outnumbered the patrons. Then there was that book review blog we tried to start, for and by the alum of a former school. The blog posts that fell flat. The time I unknowingly offended someone I respect and was called out for it. These were valuable experiences. I do what I can to avoid repeating mistakes, but I'm glad I've had the opportunity to learn.
  4. Being vulnerable and being human are the best way forward, even though it might not seem that way at the time. There's that great Oscar Wilde quote, "Be yourself, everyone else is already taken." At first it sounds so ridiculously trite that it should be ignored, but I think it sounds like a cliche because it's so very true. I was never milquetoast or bland, but writing this blog has helped me find and strengthen my voice. I've also been able to find my passion within librarianship. 
  5. I have to keep listening. I don't know everything. Yes, I've reached this point in my career that all my mouthing off has started to pay off. I get invited to give talks and asked to write things. I'm currently sitting on two invitations to write books (neither of which I have time for right now, but both of which I want to pursue eventually). Despite all this, I am still and forever learning and growing. Everything from minor issues like new technology to major concerns like a learning theory I'd embraced being called into question. I know I wouldn't be able to continue on this path if I hadn't been writing this blog.
Thank you for whatever part of this journey you've seen, and thank you for reading this blog. Here's to 500 more posts.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Hack Library School Interview



I was interviewed by Brenna Murphy as part of the great blog, "Hack Library School." Head on over there to read the interview, and when you're done poke around the rest of the blog.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Interview Post: Brenna Murphy


Biographical

Name?

Brenna Murphy

Current job?

Library Assistant in circulation at an academic library. Up until last week I was also a part-time student at the iSchool at the University of Illinois. I’m also one of the managing editors of the blog Hack Library School.

How long have you been in the field?

4 years.


How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?

My desk is a mess. I have a few personal effects, such as pictures and trinkets, but most of my space has been taken over by bookbinding supplies (book tape, exacto knives, rulers, glue) because this past year I’ve been learning to do book repair for my library.


What do you spend most of your time doing?
Most of what I do is customer service. I help patrons at the circulation desk, answer phones, and respond to emails. I’m also responsible for discharging books, collecting circulation stats, and training student workers. I serve on a couple of committees, including a fun one that plans social events for library employees.

What is a typical day like for you?
As a full-time library employee, part-time student, and blogger, my days have been pretty full for the last two years. An average day might look like this:
  • 9am - 5pm: Work. I’m responsible for a host of different things in circulation, including providing customer service at the desk, responding to phone and email requests, discharging books, recording circulation statistics, and serving on a couple of different committees.
  • 5pm - 6pm: Bike home and prepare dinner. I love to cook!
  • 6pm - 8 pm: Class. This summer I took Adult Popular Literature, where we talk about the different genres and learn how to provide readers’ advisory.
  • 8pm - 9pm: Work on projects for Hack Library School. This could include writing posts, giving feedback to other writers, scheduling guest posts, or responding to email enquiries.
  • 9pm - 10pm: Read in bed until I fall asleep.

What are you reading right now?
The last book I read was In the Woods by Tana French. I loved it, but don’t get me started on the ending! Now I’m working through Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi to get my true crime fix. I wish I could say I’m reading something academic, but I just finished school and I need a break!

What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
Don’t be discouraged by rejection. I can’t attribute this advice to any particular person because I feel like I hear it all the time - and I need to hear it! Especially as I begin my job search. I try to treat every rejection letter as inspiration to keep on trying.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
At one point, I was responsible for recruiting people to take a library survey for an assessment initiative. This included approaching strangers in the lobby of our bustling library and asking them to fill out a survey. The constant rejection was awful! I have newfound respect for those Greenpeace campaigners I see on the street.

Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?
Oubliette. My love for this word stems from my obsession with the movie Labyrinth.

What is your least favorite word?
This is technically two words, but I can’t stand when an author describes a character as having “almond eyes.” I feel like I see it everywhere and it drives me nuts (pun intended).

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
I love animals and have volunteered in shelters for years. I’m too squeamish to be a vet, but I think it would be awesome to work in a cat cafe.

What profession would you never want to attempt?
Accounting. I worked as an accounting assistant in a corporate setting before I moved into libraries and couldn’t stand the monotony of endless Excel sheets.

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
The ability to read faster. I always have a pile of books waiting to be read and I never seem to be able to get to all of them.

What are you most proud of in your career?
My career is still in the early stages, as I’m currently searching for my first post-grad job. So far, I’d have to say I’m most proud of the work I’ve done at Hack Library School. We’ve done some neat projects, such as interviewing the candidates for President of ALA this spring and a series of posts about Latin American librarianship in conjunction with the blog Infotecarios. Our blog is entirely student-run and I’m really proud of the work we’ve done together.

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
One day when I was new to reference, I was helping an alumni of my university look for the print copy of his thesis from about thirty years ago. According to our catalog, the thesis was no longer available. He was upset by this news since he did not have a copy for himself. After he left, I kept thinking about his situation and did a little more digging. It turned out that his thesis was part of a digitization project and was now online. Luckily, I had his contact information and let him know the good news - he came in the next week to look it up on one of our computers. This scenario taught me to explore every option before giving up on a reference question!

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Cooking (probably Mexican food), reading, running, or hanging out with my husband and three cats.




Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Kristina Williams, who is taking my place as Managing Editor at Hack Library School!


Brenna tweets at @LibBrenian.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Getting Into the Community

picture taken by Martha Boyd
This past weekend, I was on a panel at the Dover Comic Con. The other panelists were an English teacher from a local high school (also the husband of another librarian at my school) and the new provost, who used to teach literature at my college. Our panel, "Classrooms Can Get Graphic (Novels)", was about integrating graphic novels and comics across the curriculum. It was well attended, well received, and fun. But best of all, it was a way to support and be part of the efforts of the Dover Public Library, who organizes and runs this convention. Lots of people talk about the need to build town-gown relationships, but this was us actually doing it.

The thing is, all libraries - no matter what type - need to be an active part of the community they serve. From corporate libraries hosting parties to support scientists in their R&D department to public librarians teaming up with K-12 teachers to academic libraries cooperating in events run by the nearby public library. This is more than outreach, which is of course very important. This is about supporting the efforts of other organizations and about partnerships.

Here are some of the other things we've done to make sure that this library is an active part of not just the college community, but also city and state:
  • Participate in a state-wide effort run by the Sexual Assault Network of Delaware as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. 
  • Tie our book displays into on campus events, like Domestic Abuse Awareness and Disability Awareness.
  • Write reviews and actively promote the services of a therapy dog organization.

It can be hard to find time for this kind of thing when you're so focused on getting through the day to day, but it can also be highly rewarding. Being an active part of your community is more than getting patrons to come into the library; it's about getting out and working to further community goals.

How about you? What are some of the things you've done to support others in the community where you are? What are some of the things you'd like to do?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Just For Fun: Do You Smell Fudge?

One of my most ardent fandoms is also the one I talk about least. It's not something I see all the time on Tumblr and Twitter, like Leverage or Harry Potter or Pokemon. However, I recently bought the entire series on DVD just for the extras and commentaries - even though I've watched every episode at least 5 times before - so I figure it's time for me to talk about how much I love Warehouse 13. I'm going to try to keep this spoiler free since I'd love more people to join this fandom. On the other hand, you'll need to understand the premise, so...

You remember that enormous warehouse at the end of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark where they store the ark? Imagine the stories of the people who retrieve and guard those artifacts, those items with supernatural powers, and who maintain the facility. Add in a healthy dose of steampunk aesthetic, and you'll be close to Warehouse 13. But that's just the reason I started watching it. How about why I love it so deeply...?


source
First, there's the fact that it's a true ensemble cast. Each character gets a background and human characteristics and family, and they're all in every single episode. They have to work together to solve the problems, and when they don't... well, it doesn't work well.


source
Second, it's goofy. It's not a spoiler to tell you something from the first episode, right? Anyway, during the first episode we learn that an important diagnostic question employed by agents of Warehouse 13 is, "Do you smell fudge when there is no fudge?" Best part? That question actually comes in handy later in the series. Incidentally, the purple gloves are what agents wear so the artifacts don't impact them.


source
Third, there are so many fabulous guest stars! Kate Mulgrew and Anthony Head and Cherie Curie and Roger Rees and Anthony Michael Hall and so many more than I can name here.


source
Fourth, literature and history is woven throughout the series. That picture above? That's Sylvia Plath's typewriter. I won't tell you what powers it has, but I will tell you it's a very powerful object. There is no one genre or period which gets more focus than another. Studio 54 comes up, as does Lewis Carroll. HG Wells gets mentioned plenty. The Saracen-Arab Wars. And so on. And so on.


source
Finally, this show was my first encounter with a realistic portrayal of an American practicing Buddhism. So many times in popular culture we see Buddhists as these completely enlightened and fully realized individuals who are a cross between a cowboy and the Dalai Lama. But most of us American Buddhists are just people on a path who are working towards and seeking that state. Finally, in Warehouse 13, I saw my own experiences represented. The character, Steve Jinks, and his Buddhist practice made me feel so much more comfortable about my own path than any of the books or articles or dharma talks I've attended.


How about you? If you are already a member of this fandom, what's your favorite thing about the show? If you aren't yet a fan of Warehouse 13, did I convince you to give it a try?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Being Gentle

I have a personal situation that is taking up most of the energy and focus I have that's not devoted to work, so I didn't have a post yet for today. I was going to try to read an article and crank out a post on that topic, but then I said to myself the thing I've been saying a lot to my friends lately: "Be gentle with yourself. You're doing the best you can right now." And I took a deep breath. And instead I'm going to tell you this: being gentle with yourself doesn't mean you don't hold yourself accountable. It just means that you don't berate yourself or drive yourself mercilessly. You are lovely and wonderful and complete, just as you are, at whatever stage of your path. Yes, strive for better, but support yourself as best you can.

To soften the blow of a super short blog post, here are some lovely videos and pictures and such:




Thursday, July 28, 2016

Interview Post: Jessica Schomberg

Biographical

Name?

Jessica Schomberg

Current job?

Media Cataloger/Assessment Coordinator & Department Chair, Minnesota State University-Mankato

How long have you been in the field?
I got my first job in libraries as a student page in 1992. My first full-time, post-MLIS job was in 2000.


How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?

I actually have two offices, for two of my different hats:

My cataloging office (pictured first): the skull of Sam the super skeleton is in the foreground, my map table and some of my music backlog is in the background. *cue crying at the size of my music backlog*

The library department chair office (second image): the department chair role is a rotating position, so I haven’t done much to make this office feel like “mine” -- other than add a ginormous white board so I can track some of the major projects my library will be working on for the next few years.






How do you organize your days?
I try to put everything I’m working on in my Outlook calendar. If my calendar doesn’t tell me to do something, I am very prone to distraction.

What do you spend most of your time doing?
Writing documents or reports and talking with people. While I love cataloging, I don’t usually get to spend much time actually doing it (hence the backlog).

What is a typical day like for you?
It varies a lot, but generally some mixture of formal meetings, impromptu conversations, and sitting in front of computers.

What are you reading right now?
I’m not quite as bookwormish as Yomiko Readman, but this question still always makes my head explode. The three things in top rotation at the moment, all by authors whose writing I adore:

What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
I’m like a sponge in terms of soaking up advice, so it’s hard to pick the best. Um, maybe... try stuff, see if you like it; if you don’t, move on and try something else.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
Going into library school, I knew I didn’t want to teach and I didn’t want to supervise. I now do both.

The other side of this, though, is that I never expected to love teaching. I enjoy making connections with students and, in a really good class, seeing them leave with a different perspective on the world. (Yes, that’s possible even in one-shots.)

Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?
What is your least favorite word?
Herstory. Sorry, but it makes me literally cringe.

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
Option A: in a world where universal health care and basic income were guaranteed, I would love to work in a bakery/deli again.

Option B: I would love to expand my knowledge of statistics and linguistics and do Cool Things with those areas of expertise.

What profession would you never want to attempt?
Anything involving viscera and/or sales.

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
Well, my library superhero name is Lackadaisical Porcupine so maybe my superpowers would be taking naps and foraging for leaves and using my quills to fend off annoyances.

What are you most proud of in your career?
The peer network I’ve developed on twitter, maybe? IDK. This kind of question is hard for me.

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
I don’t really buy into the culture of nice [PDF], but I’m also not always very strategic about how I express that. This can have repercussions.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Snuggling cats, drinking tea, and either watching Star Trek: Voyager or reading.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Stephanie @sendaulas (her account is protected so I haven’t included her last name)


Jessica tweets at @schomj. This is Jessica's third post for LtaYL The first was "My (Library) Life with Invisible Disabilities," and the second was "The Power to Name."