Librarian Problems

Librarian Problems.

Yet Another Internet Librarian 2012 Wrap-Up Post

The Transformative Power of Libraries

This year’s Internet Librarian conference in Monterey, CA focused on the constantly shifting nature of librarianship, and ways that we can prepare ourselves and our libraries for whatever comes next.

Storified by Cecily · Fri, Oct 26 2012 00:42:17

Monday, October 23 – Building Usable & Accessible Websites
While we still do a fair amount of brochure-style “microsites” at my organization, we’ve started to purchase more hosted products so that we can bring more polished products to our patrons in a fraction of the time it takes to build them. Because of this, I’ve wondered how valuable my role as a user experience/web services librarian really is when we don’t get to test these products with users before signing license agreements.
Talking about usability. When we buy, not build most of our web products, how valuable is usability testing? #internetlibrarianCecily Walker
I’d like to have enough time with vendor products to test with users before we sign licenses. #internetlibrarianCecily Walker
Recurring #internetlibrarian theme: why doesn’t our online presence get the same kind of care and maintenance as our physical buildings?Emily Clasper
My answer to this is that because people don’t think ‘website’ when they think library, they think building. Librarians know this hasn’t been true for years, yet we still distinguish between so-called virtual services and in-person services.
Turned out to be a beautiful day in Monterey. #internetlibrarian http://pic.twitter.com/Hy912p8GCecily Walker
One of my favourite sessions of the conference was The Next Big Thing. I enjoyed hearing conference goers talk about the trends and personal successes they were most excited about.
I think the next big thing is embracing all our libraries as hyper-local treasures, connected to big shared data #il2012 #internetlibrarianCarson Block
Aw – libraries love helping people. Is it a wonder that we often try to be all things to all people? Too hard. #il2012 #internetlibrarianCarson Block
Lee Rainie of the Pew Internet & American Life Project was this year’s keynote speaker, and had some fascinating data to share about the library habits of young adults. Many of the attendees were surprised that young adults read more, visit the library more often, and use technologies like ereaders far less than adults.  Pew also found that smartphone/tablet use increases at night because people read tomorrow’s news before going to sleep.
The Reading and Library Use Habits of Younger Americans http://pewrsr.ch/PNALyT #internetlibrarianLee Rainie
Ppl are reading tomorrow’s news before going to sleep… #pewcenter #internetlibrarian —> I like this.Adam Burke
The statistic that was most sobering to me was learning that while libraries meant more and fostered more good will among African Americans, Latinos, and less affluent users, people who fall into those demographics tend not to be library card holders.
Libraries appreciated more for meaning to community than personal use. @lrainie keynote #internetlibrarianDonna Feddern
Pew’s research also uncovered that the book format used by most people in libraries is changing. Book use is dropping, while e-reader use is increasing. The implications for this are that more library staff are dealing with patrons who expect us to be able to troubleshoot all problems with their devices. Showing them how to load a text on their Kobo/Kindle/Nook is no longer enough. Some library staff are balking at this (which isn’t surprising). Athena Hoeppner’s response succinctly answers the frequently asked question “Why do we need to fix all this stuff?:
Librarians need to be tech support for the world because information literacy requires use of technology. #InternetLibrarianAthena Hoeppner
My Tuesday Night session “Transforming Roles: What Do You Want to Be” was well-received, I think. You can read the notes at the URL below.
Transforming Roles–What Do You Want To Be? The Tuesday Evening Session http://www.libconf.com/2012/10/24/transforming-roles-what-do-you-want-to-be-the-tuesday-evening-session/#.UIlNClfLlII.twitter via @libconf #internetlibrarianNicole Engard
During the panel, I explained that one of the reasons I insisted on reminding people I was a librarian when I worked for banks and software development companies was because I wanted to challenge people’s perceptions of what a librarian was capable of. This quote (uncredited to me, but my words all the same) was retweeted a fair amount, which, I must admit, made me feel pretty great.
Whatever you think a librarian is, you’re wrong – great quote from #internetlibrarian panel.Jane Dysart
The biggest takeaway from the evening came not from the panel, but from the audience:
You know what librarians are? Ambassadors of knowledge, no matter what our business card says #internetlibrarianMichelle Boule
Hear, hear.
@nataliebinder What was the one main takeaway from #internetlibrarian? (those who went and those who followed online)Librarianry
I’d say: wear comfortable shoes, dress in layers, hydrate, and drink less booze, but the following are probably more useful in a professional context.
I’m thinking there’s a lot to be said for transforming our jobs rather than just trying to add to them. #internetlibrarianEmily Clasper
"Fail often, fail hard. Don’t be afraid to be told your ideas suck." Best advice of the day; from @benbizzle #internetlibrarianSusan
Common themes at #internetlibrarian are: have fun, encourage curiosity, have VERY moveable shelves and furniture, JUST DO EPIC SHIT.Justin Hoenke
RT @skeskali: Be unapologetically, fully yourself, but know you have a duty to others. #bindersfullofsnowflakes #InternetlibrarianAnna Creech
My experience this year more than made up for any uncertainty I felt last year, and I’m going to be looking for more opportunities to become involved with the conference as an organizer, moderator, or some other role. See you next year, Monterey!

A Collection of Library-related Thoughts

I’ve spent most of my work day sending email to move projects along…

The Ethical Librarian

Lane Wilkinson muses on ethical library service, or as I like to call it, “Why we can’t just give you the answer”:

Basically, we teach at the reference desk because we have a librarian’s commitment to provide access to information conflicting with a professional commitment to honor our student’s external relationships. Teaching a student to look-up an article is, quite simply, just our way of circumscribing what we can’t do.

When I first started working in libraries, I had high minded ideas about teaching people how to use resources, but after awhile, there’s only so much eye-rolling a person can take before they come to the conclusion that giving someone the answer is what’s called for at times, and doesn’t mean we’re providing sub-par customer service. The challenge — and expertise — comes in knowing which service to provide and when.

That’s Mighty White of You…

NPR’s ombudsman wonders When A Popular List Of 100 ‘Best-Ever’ Teen Books Is The ‘Whitest Ever’, whose to blame?

After speaking with editors and studying the poll, I find that the problem was not the experts, but the nature of the poll and the make-up of the audience. This is not to condemn either—let’s celebrate engagement!—but it does raise a question as to how NPR should protect its editorial integrity when publishing a popularity list that realistically will be taken as NPR’s own and have great influence in schools and sales.

My short and somewhat snarky answer? It’s a listicle, people. Relax.

My somewhat longer answer: Given the demographics of NPR’s audience, I’m not sure why we expected a different result. I don’t think that getting library and publishing professionals involved in vetting what is essentially a popularity contest is the answer. It smacks of a soft paternalism that I’m uncomfortable with. I do know that regardless of NPR’s stature as a media tastemaker, I don’t put any more weight behind their list of 100 Best Ever Books than I would behind Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Best Albums Ever (or Pitchfork — choose your generational signifier). Neither should you. This was a numbers game, and the makeup of the numbers — fairly or not — skewed the list in a particular direction.

As professionals, from the time we enter library school to the time we accept our first entry-level job, we’re taught to make sure we consult a variety of sources when making collection decisions. NPR shouldn’t be the only arbiter of what is cool or ‘best’. If you’re genuinely concerned about this issue, and if you’re a librarian/teacher/bookseller who wants to expose your readers to more diverse works, you can continue to do that, even while being supportive of and promoting the NPR list. It’s not my intention to gloss over issues of diversity, but what I am saying is that library professionals continue to wield a significant amount of influence with our local communities. NPR’s list, no matter how good or how short-sighted, won’t take that away from us.

Riddles, Puzzles, Jerky Co-Workers, and Information Architecture

When I worked as a library assistant in the circulation department of my undergraduate library, I had a nasty habit of chaining together all the paperclips in our paperclip holder, but positioning them in such a way that they looked like individual paperclips. Not content to clip them end-to-end, I would double back and create really complex, helix-like strands of clips so that when you picked up the one paperclip on top, you would either pull out one long contiguous chain, or pull out something that looked like a metallic ball of twine. Today I used this as a metaphor to describe the information architecture on my library’s website.

File Under: Eating my own dog food.

Libraries = Empowerment

How Libraries Empower Women, Strengthen Healthcare, and Bridge the Education Gap – from the Gates Foundation

Don't Get Angry, Get Crunk

This is one of the greatest moments in television punditry. Melissa Harris-Perry goes off on a panelist who dared to make the comment that being wealthy is riskier than being poor. That moment reminded me of a quote I read in a piece by the Crunk Feminist Collective:

One of the ways White supremacy and sexism works is through a putative disavowal of emotion as a legitimate form for expressing thought. Women and Black people are overly emotional, so the conventional wisdom goes. We have been taught to overcompensate for this stereotype by being overly composed, even when anger is warranted. And we are wholly unprepared when our emotions start to split the seams of our tightly put on public selves. Perhaps it’s time to change clothes, and intentionally put on something that gives us room to breathe.

For me, that has meant embracing my own crunkness. Why go off when I can GET CRUNK? And by that I mean I can make an intentional choice to use my legitimate and righteous anger in an honest and compassionate way that is potentially transformative.

The Crunk Feminist Collective

This is something I struggle with quite a bit at work. I’m one of two black librarians at MPOW, and sometimes I think what some colleagues read as anger — because I don’t frame my arguments in a dispassionate, remote manner, and because my true feelings are always written all over my face — is read incorrectly because it’s different, because I’m different. We talk about diversity in the workplace, but it seems that there still is only one right way to present a position, and more often than not, I feel as if I never get it right. I wonder if I were in an environment where my minority status wasn’t quite so obvious if I’d still face the same challenges, or if there would be enough cultural shorthand and similarity going around where people could shrug off my “passion” and get to the heart of what I’m saying. I don’t suppose that’s something I’ll ever know, what with living in Vancouver and all.

So instead of getting angry, I’m going to learn to GET CRUNK about the changes I’d like to see. I’m going to learn to harness eloquent rage, even at the risk of alienating others. Part of this process of learning to evangelize myself is learning how to speak the truth without fear.

Coder, Teach Thyself?

As someone who has struggled with developing my coding/programming skills past a certain point, Andromeda Yelton‘s post about coders needing to self-teach (and the false dichotomy therein) feels like the right answer at the right time. G’wan. Read it.