Reduce Fear

“I long for the day for people to live their lives to live in a way that pleases God, not because they have to and because they can. And so they will live in all kinds of ways, in ways that you may not agree with. He alone will judge. He didn’t call us to be prosecutors, but witnesses.”
– Alan Chambers, former head of Exodus International

There are times when I am skeptical of complete reversals of opinion. They often seem too neatly packaged and their appearance is usually too well-timed to a particular political or social event. Then there are times when I’m awestruck by our capacity for radical change. The knowledge that Exodus International, the (in)famous ex-gay ministry is shutting down and rebranding itself has placed me squarely in the latter camp.

Sometimes it feels as though the world’s heart has grown larger, softer and more open. Exodus International is shutting down, The Mormons are “creating conversations” between gay members and their general membership, and not one, but two same-gender families made Ebony Magazine’s list of the Coolest Black Families in America.

Does it seem like things have changed quickly, or has the passing time and increasing distance between my youth and my present age dulled the edges of my memory? Are things really happening this fast? Or are they not happening fast enough? Either? Or? Both?

I look around sometimes and while things look familiar on the surface, on closer inspection its clear that I stepped through a looking glass without even realizing it.

Librarianship Isn't About What We Have, It's About What We Do

Vancouver Public Library Info Staff
photo by Maria Hernandez

Librarianship isn’t about what we have; it’s about what we do. It’s taken us a while to realize that our full shelves (or loaded databases) aren’t our greatest value. It’s human interaction: over the reference desk, through informal one-on-one instruction, in teaching a workshop or facilitating a program, and by enabling conversations, bringing people together, and building communitywide experiences.

An excellent quote from Brian Kenney’s “So You Think you Want to Be a Librarian“. It dovetails nicely with a presentation Kay Cahill and I are giving at the Beyond Hope Library Conference on Monday on Designing for Humans: User Experience and the 21st Century Librarian.

Ours is a customer service profession. We’re a high-touch profession that works best when we nurture, teach, coach and motivate others to learn, explore and grow. We exist to serve others. While we’re in one of the few professions that is named after a building, the true “rockstar” librarians remember to put people first in everything that they do.

The Disappearing Butch

butch woman holding a hammer
photo by flickr user arlette

Butches are all about chivalry, old school manners, and swagger… that’s how you’re going to know a butch.” – Butch Jaxson

As a femme-identified person who is attracted to more masculine women, I worry about whether butches are disappearing. Recently, Elan Morgan and I had a Twitter conversation about my discomfort around transgender issues as they relate to me. I would like to consider myself a trans-ally, but when I see that more butches are becoming men it seems, from my admittedly narrow perspective, that more women are transitioning to male, a little corner of my heart sinks. I don’t feel particularly comfortable admitting that, primarily because I don’t want to be seen as transphobic.

This issue becomes more complicated for me because I also identify as bisexual/queer. You would think that someone who is attracted to cisgender males would also find erotic appreciation for transmen as well. For better or worse, that isn’t the case. I’m not certain I want to unpack that here on this blog (but maybe if you buy me a beer, we can talk about it…), instead, I’d like to direct you to a discussion on the disappearing butch that took place on CBC’s The Current last week.

(I’m deliberately hedging and not revealing my true feelings on this issue, because I am not sure this is a discussion I’m quite ready to have in an unsafe space. All I can say is I’m reading, listening, trying to learn, trying to figure out what this has to do with me, if anything at all. I’m trying. That’s all I can offer at the moment.)

Judith Butler, DLitt – McGill 2013 Honorary Doctorate Address

Living in this cultural and historical moment where critical thinking, questioning, reading, and engaging deeply with the world around us is suspect, Judith Butler’s address feels a bit like a measured, well-reasoned call to arms.

“In short, we become more critical, and more capacious in our thinking and in our acting.”

User Experience is not (Just) a Band-Aid™

lucky monkey bandages
photo from flickr user Christopher Matson

Did you know that the inventor of Band-Aid™ adhesive bandages invented them for his wife? In 1920, Earle Dickson put gauze and adhesive tape together so that his wife could keep from cutting her fingers while preparing food in the kitchen.

This reminded me of how user experience is sometimes treated in organizations. It’s clear that Mrs. Dickson needed better knife handling skills, or maybe Mr. Dickson needed to do his own durn cooking. Instead, good ol’ Earle came up with a quick fix* that merely covered up a deeper and more troubling concern. Similarly, instead of having user experience involved at every stage of the development process and building something better from the start, we ask for quick fixes that will temporarily plaster over a problem that needs a better, and more carefully thought-out solution.

And just like with adhesive bandages, quickie UX solutions often cause pain when you try to pull them off.

In short: don’t give your projects short shrift. For the long-term success and health of your projects, be sure to involve user experience consultants at every phase of development.

*Granted, his quick fix is a permanent part of our culture, but the basic purpose of Band-Aids hasn’t changed.

"It's Time"

I realize I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster the last few days, but this video from Cmdr. Chris Hadfield touched me deeply. The song Space Oddity always makes me sad, and while Hadfield has made space seem closer and more human than any other astronaut before him, his humor and approachable nature has never completely erased the inherent danger involved in this endeavour. I worry about the spaceman with the funny moustache. I worry what life will have in store for him once he returns, if he returns.

After reading this Vancouver Sun piece on Chris Hadfield’s future (and the future of the Canadian Space Agency), I sincerely hope life has bigger and better things in store for him. Cmdr. Hadfield humanized space travel for me and for many others in my generation who viewed it as something quaint and old fashioned, or worse, as something unobtainable and tinged with tragedy. If middle-aged me can be inspired by him, I can only imagine the effect he’s had on children.

Good luck, Commander. May your trajectory be true and may the ground gently and safely rise to meet you.