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Farewell, 2014

24 Dec

Our library closes to the public at noon today, and that’ll wrap up 2014 for me, work-wise. In so many ways, it was not the year I expected to have. Running for President-Elect of SLA was a huge part of that, naturally, but even things I knew about going in — like my digital scholarship fellowship — took me to unexpected places.

It was exhausting and exhilarating, and rarely did the two take turns. I already have much to prepare for in 2015, so the upcoming week and a half of (relative) rest is not something I’ll be taking for granted. I have a feeling I’m going to need it.

I also hope I will never take for granted all the excellent people I’ve gotten to work with in 2014, at HLM and Cornell, in SLA, and beyond; thank you for doing wonderful work and occasionally letting me be a part of it.

I am grateful to the folks out there fighting the good fight for our profession, our society, and our world; the folks whose risks and efforts completely eclipse my own. My gratitude and admiration go out to #teamharpy, and the people working hard in their support, as well as anyone who takes to the streets in pursuit of justice and the acknowledgement that #BlackLivesMatter.

I am also deeply grateful to my family for all their support, even in the face of the most unexpected and barely explicable librarian shenanigans.

Thank you all. Happy holidays, Happy New Year, and I hope to see you in 2015.

Well played, spambot

22 Aug

For the last several weeks, one 2012 post on this blog has been getting absolutely hammered with spam. (“Spammered”?) I have been studiously trashing them, of course.

Which was what I was about to do when two more popped up today. And then I looked at the second one:

Do you have a spam issue on this website; I also am a blogger, and I was wondering your situation; we have created some nice procedures and we are looking to exchange strategies with others, why not shoot
me an email if interested.

Well played, spambot. Well played.

A terrible keynote, but a very solid DrupalCamp

6 Dec

On Monday, I attended DrupalCamp here at Cornell. Overall, the event was great. Though I was hindered by a nasty cold that had set in over Thanksgiving break, the sessions I attended were excellent: one talked about web accessibility, providing both historical and legal context and then providing practical advice for using the tools of responsive web design to create accessible sites. Another talked about preparing for Drupal, and again gave an excellent overview of what was involved in the creation of a Drupal site before digging into the pragmatic needs of such an endeavor. Wonderful stuff, and just the sort of thing that got me to sign up in the first place.

The keynote, sadly, was another story. For whatever reason, the organizers gave over this important task to a representative of one of the vendors, and it was disastrous. I documented this on Twitter:

(NOTE: I am not sure why WordPress won’t let me embed the Storify. I’ve tried several times and no longer care.)

Like I said, the rest of the event was excellent. In fact, I’m willing to assume at this point that the speaker — or more likely, his employer Acquia — promised the organizers a very different speech. But the “you need to think like a business!” rhetoric we got was wholly inappropriate; whether or not you think that mindset has any validity*, it’s certainly not new thinking. We’ve been living it for as long as I’ve been working in academic libraries, and playing buzzword bingo*** with us isn’t inspirational, it’s insulting.

I went to DrupalCamp to get a bit more insight into using Drupal; I’m not a developer, but I wanted a better context for working with the developers on several upcoming projects. I got that, and would attend similar events in the future. I also got a good story out of it, so all in all I’d call the event a success.

——-

* Note: I don’t. It’s better served in another post, but the short version is that academic institutions aren’t businesses, and the principles that currently drive business in Western society don’t even produce successful businesses, so we can’t expect them to produce a viable academy. Not to say there aren’t things that can be learned from other sectors and spheres, but we can’t expect success by pretending that they aren’t other sectors and spheres.**

** Actually, that might be my whole post on the topic. We’ll see.

*** I almost shouted “BINGO!” when he put up the “THE FUTURE IS AGILE!” slide, though to be fair that might be the free square in the middle of the board.

Why I’m not ashamed to be a mod at Librarian Shaming

25 Oct

[Spoiler warning: it’s because I think it’s awesome.]

I’ve been modding for Librarian Shaming since it made the jump from a most excellent post on the Dracut Library blog to tumblr (arguably its natural environment). The site’s caught some flack from the start, but that seems to have ramped up in the last week or so. Whether that means that the numbers of followers and posts have reached some kind of critical mass or that we’ve just hit the backlash portion of the internet meme lifecycle, who can say.

I won’t endeavor to do some kind of point-by-point rebuttal of the critiques I’ve seen, both because I’d rather talk about what I like than get defensive*, and because I’m sure I’ve missed some.  But I will start out by speaking to the notion that Librarian Shaming is somehow bad for the image of the profession.

Here’s the thing: I love how many followers we have, and I love that we’ve gotten press. But honestly? This is a moderately popular blog that’s been getting the meme-flash-in-the-pan treatment for a few weeks. Most of the attention it’s received is from within the library world, even after getting picked up by the web press. We’re just not that influential, and that’s OK. 

I’ve heard a number of folks worry about how some of the more negative submissions could adversely affect patron support for libraries, and I hate the idea of making any library worker’s life anywhere any harder. But the thing is, any “supporter” who would hold something some anonymous library worker said against you never supported you in the first place. And I certainly don’t think that any public collective action by libraryfolk should be held to the standard of, “But what might our most wingnutty hypothetical patron think of this?” Reasonable people will recognize the site for what it is: a place to vent.

Which is not to say that I, personally, have been down with every submission. Like anyone else, there have been submissions I’ve found challenging or upsetting or painfully wrongheaded. This is a good thing. I really dig that we’ve sparked some conversations about patron interaction, dealing with works we find reprehensible, and pay. Do I think these discussions will necessarily change the world? No.** But it’s really good to see them happen, and see them expand beyond tumblr.

That brings me to the main reason I think Librarian Shaming can be good for the profession: it lets people vent their challenging and upsetting and potentially wrongheaded reactions to the work, the stuff they struggle with or do on the sly, and do so anonymously.  One critique I’ve seen a  few times goes along the lines of, “If I said this stuff, I’d get fired!”

That’s the point. 

I think Librarian Shaming has gotten the number of followers and submissions that we have because many libraryfolk haven’t had this kind of outlet before. So many of us have blogs and social media accounts and marketing collateral — often both institutional and personal — to talk about the positive and inspiring parts of our work.*** But we have a fear of publicly copping to the things that frustrate us; and it’s a justified fear, because that can get us into serious, potentially life-altering trouble.

But Librarian Shaming gives an avenue for that kind of emotion, and even lets folks laugh and commiserate about it to the extent that they’re comfortable.  And that’s what I love about working with the blog: the tremendous outpouring of positive, funny, joyful responses that I’ve seen to so many of the posts.

I’m not going to say it’s perfect — even I wonder from time to time if we should change the name, for example — but overall it’s been a really wonderful experience. And one I’m proud to be a part of.

I’m just not sure where it should go on my CV quite yet.

——-

* Yeah, I know the post title comes off as at least a little defensive. But I’m a sucker for parallelism.
** Again, we’re not that influential.
*** Not that I’m saying that we, as a profession, do enough of that. Oh gods, no. But the tools are there.

New year, new gig (kinda): Digital Scholarship Fellow

23 Aug

Okay, so it’s really an additional gig, but who am I to deny the lure of parallelism?

First things first: it’s new student welcome day here at Cornell, so campus is something of a zoo. (Well, that’s unfair: zoo denizens generally know where they’re supposed to be.) As chaotic as this day can be, I love it: so many folks on the threshold of new knowledge, connections, and perspectives. My general cynicism about universities’ conversion into worker mills is forced to recede in the face of today’s breathless enthusiasm. This institution still holds the power to be transformative, and I love being a part of that, and love seeing new members of our community engage with it.

Also, as I’ve said before: some of these folks will fall in love with Ithaca and never want to leave, and I know how that tune goes.

Now onto the new, additional gig.

As of September, I will be one of three newly-minted Digital Scholarship Fellows here at the Cornell University Library. My peers are the awesome Dianne Dietrich and Erin Eldermire, whose work to date leaves me humble, whose Fellowship goals get me excited, and whose names make me oddly jealous with regards to alliteration.

My Fellowship is a one-year term, taking up 25% of my time. In that time, I’m going to work with folks from within the Digital Scholarship and Preservation Services (DSPS) unit and around CUL to take a look at how digital repositories are handled around campus and try to forge a coherent policy on issues like software, staffing and workflows, collection development, and sustainability. Truth be told, I’m not sure how much will get done in a year, but the situation on campus demands this kind of analysis and the Fellowship should give me access to the resources and very smart people necessary to at least make a dent in this thing.

Of course, I’ll still be doing at least 75% of my current job; I have to give up my ref desk shifts, tough, which I’m actually quite sad about. I’m always apprehensive about digital projects folks getting silo’d away from their community, and so I’ve tried to protect my public services responsibilities. But there was no way around the fact that they’d be the first to go if the Fellowship came through, so I’ll deal. I’ll likely get to come back to them in a year’s time.

I say “likely” because there’s another bit of parallelism to all this: with all the potential for change and new ideas in the way CUL deals with repositories, it’s quite possible that this next year will be transformative for me and my career, too. The job I’m doing a year from now may not have all that much in common with the one I’m doing today. One of the reasons I went for this Fellowship is to make sure I had a voice in how that plays out, but even so the amount that’s unknown is scary and exciting.

As a great philosopher once said, bring on next year.

On “professionalism”

20 Jun

So over on tumblr, I saw an excellent post speaking out against judging folks for their tattoos or piercings. It was in the context of “professionalism”, so I added the following comment:

I am done with the word “professionalism” until it stops meaning “adheres to a series of arbitrary norms that have nothing to do with the quality of one’s work.” If it decides to mean, “Does their job well while being respectful of others,” then I will happily embrace it.

Then I got to thinking. It’s not like “professionalism” has a choice in how it’s defined; it lacks sentience, sapience, and agency. If the common connotation of the word is going to change, we’ve got to do it.

So, I’m going to try. Starting now, I will consider, “Doing your job well while being respectful of others” to be the only valid definition of “professionalism”. If someone tries to use the other definition with me, in reference to me, a co-worker, a job applicant, or basically any other human being, I will try to call them out on it. (I am totally in agreement with the original poster on tumblr’s use of “unprofessional”, by the by: turning down a job applicant for superficial reasons is unprofessional both because it’s disrespectful of them and it means you’re doing a bad job of hiring folks.)

We’ll see how it goes.

Refusal anxiety

1 May

It’s a gorgeous Wednesday afternoon. I just ate lunch out on the quad in the sun, enjoyed a delicious iced coffee, and am feeling reasonably prepared for the rest of my work day. And yet, I’m oddly anxious.

Why? Because the annual call for committee volunteers ends today, and I’m not putting my name in for anything. And it is freaking me out.

This decision wasn’t taken lightly, nor is it an issue of procrastination. It’s a planned refocusing of my time for the next year. I’m still on or otherwise involved with a couple of committees at the Cornell University Library level. Within the Hospitality, Labor, and Management Library, I still sit on the leadership group and an ongoing search committee; it’s likely I’ll be leading a search committee of my own before the year is out. I’m the president of UNYSLA until December, then I’ll be past president and nominations chair for a year, and I plan to stay on the (admittedly casual) steering committee for SLUSH for the foreseeable future.

I’m not exactly avoiding group work, is what I’m saying.

There’s plenty of other stuff to occupy my work time over the next year, too; I’ve got at least two major projects that I’ll likely write about here when they’re better fit for public scrutiny, and the possibility of another that’d be even bigger. And that’s not even touching the three — three! — outstanding research projects I should be working on. All of these things, taken together, indicate that not only will I have plenty to do, but the chances of anyone (even the promotional committee of my darkest nightmares)  looking at this decision askance are slim to nil. Plus, it’s not like these committees won’t be around next year.

And still, I’m twitchy about this. Let’s see if I can make it the next few hours without caving and throwing my name in for something.

EDIT: Oh gods, the call’s open until Friday. I’m doomed.

Libraries’ Glass Escalator

12 Mar

This post has been a long time coming for me. It’s been delayed in no small part because I wasn’t sure that what our profession needed was more “insights” from white straight cis-dudes… but with that reservation presented at the outset, here we go.

If you’re a librarian, or work in libraries, take a minute or two to read “A New Obstacle for Professional Women: The Glass Escalator“, by Forbes’ Jenna Goudreau. A good pull-quote:

“Men that enter female-dominated professions tend to be promoted at faster rates than women in those professions,” explains Caren Goldberg, Ph.D., an assistant professor of management at American University’s Kogod School of Business who has researched the phenomenon. “When you look at senior management, you tend to see men disproportionately represented. So while there may be less than 5% of all nurses who are male, you see a much larger percentage than 5% in senior-level positions like hospital administrators.”

Research shows that men in female-dominated jobs tend to fare better even than men in male-dominated jobs, and they typically earn higher salaries, receive more promotions, and achieve higher levels within organizations than their female counterparts.

Glass escalators: no matter how pressed a library is for space, they always seem to make room for one of these.

My first week on the job here — and I wasn’t a librarian yet, I didn’t even have my degree — an older, male librarian cracked a joke about me being director one day. I lacked (and still lack) any such ambitions, and I found it jarring. Why say that? Was it my MPA? Was I just that naturally charming? There’s no way for me to know if that comment was made because I’m male — and the librarian in question wasn’t someone who made a habit of throwing sexist comments around — but if nothing else, it seems really damned unlikely that it’s the sort of thing a woman in her first week of a paraprofessional position in a male-dominated industry is going to receive, even from another woman.

The figure that tends to get bandied about for the gender split in our profession is about 80/20 in favor of women, but it blows my mind when I hear people talk about how we need to make the profession “more welcoming” to men. I mean, how many of our library directors and administrators are male? Our conference speakers? Our “rock stars“? While there is some skew in favor of women, few if any match the overall proportions of the profession. And the gender pay gap seems alive and well in both the “information” and “education” industries.  So since male librarians* are already getting more than our share of money, power, and prestige, I think our profession can safely stop worrying about us.***

In fact, I’ll go further and say that any male librarian who does not take a step back and consider that the raises, promotions, and laurels he receives come to him easier than they do to his female colleagues is doing himself, his peers, and his profession a disservice. It’s not easy — we’re sure as hell trained to avoid even the vaguest inkling that we might benefit from something we didn’t earn — but it’s important. There may not be any one item on your resume or CV that you can point to and say, “I got that because I’m a dude,” but to steal a very apt metaphor from the realm of climate change discussion: you can’t point to any one of Mark McGwire’s home runs and say he hit that one due to steroids, either. But steroids helped him hit more home runs, undoubtedly.

Being male is a huge advantage for your library career. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can stop worrying about drawing in more male librarians and work more on providing gender equity within the profession.

And I’m betting we’ll have better content at our conferences, too.

——-

* Let’s talk, for a second, about the whole “guybrarian” (or “libratorr”** or whatever) thing. It needs to go, because it’s rooted in the following misogynist syllogism:

  • Being a “librarian” is inherently feminine.
  • Being feminine, especially when you present as male, is bad.
  • Therefore, if you present as male you should call yourself something other than “librarian”.

It’s the inverse of the problematic practice of coming up with new words for women who perform traditionally male jobs. So seriously: cut it out. You’re a goddamn librarian.

** Note: anyone who decides to link the Penny Arcade comic that spawned that term is really only emphasizing the ubiquity of the syllogism and the mindset behind it. I mean, we’re talking Penny Arcade, here.

*** I should clarify that while I’m ranting mainly about presented gender here, the “us” that libraryland can safely stop worrying about are white, straight, cis-male librarians. There are major issues with diversity in this profession, but needing more people who match my demographic spread ain’t among ’em.

——-

EDIT: Thank you, Nina PiccoliCharlotte WilliamsAmy Buckland, and Aliqae Geraci. Your comments and corrections made the post far, far better than it would otherwise have been. Mea culpa, that I didn’t include this when I first published the post.

2012 in review (aka “I damn well need to write more”)

2 Jan

Below is the summary WordPress prepared for me, which I’m generally willing to let stand on its own.

Not many posts this year, a lot of them were job listings… but there were a couple I was very proud of.

Let’s see how I do in 2013. Happy New Year, y’all.

——-

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 1,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 3 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

On my way to SLA, British rock ‘n’ roll edition

13 Jul

That song doesn’t have much to do with SLA that I can tell, but it’s been stuck in my head for days. Librarianship is about sharing.

In something absurd like 16 hours, I will be boarding the first of two planes whose travels shall, in theory, bring me to Chicago in time for the Special Library Association’s annual conference, expo, and generalized shindig. It’s gonna be a packed couple of days for me: at least two meals dedicated to BUSINESS, a board meeting, karaoke, and a four-hour continuing education workshop that I am apparently delivering.

Good news: it’s based on one that Amy Buckland and I have given at the last two Computers in Libraries conferences. Bad news: Amy can’t make it. I’m gonna be like Wings covering Abbey Road out there. Or, more accurately, like someone trying to remember not only the points that they’re used to making, but also the points that their very smart collaborator always made.

That being said, we’ve got over twenty folks signed up to hear about best practices in digital repositories, which seems to indicate that they’re not a lost cause quite yet. It’s frustrating to see so many repositories struggle, especially because so many of them seem struggle due to a lack of institutional or administrative commitment. Doing this stuff right requires people, and requires people who see the repository as another tool for the creation of digital collections and digital libraries… not just a box to throw faculty papers into. (Certainly not just a box we ask faculty to throw their papers into while we sit by and hope for the best, because c’mon people that’s not suddenly gonna work.)

The other thing I’m looking forward to is seeing all the folks whom I haven’t gotten a chance to hang out with since last year’s SLA, or maybe since CiL. Networking is really the part of the conference that shone for me last year, and after doing what I can to make sure people don’t feel like I wasted four hours of their Sunday morning, that’s what I’m gonna focus on until I hop a plane or two back here on Tuesday.

That and karaoke. Gonna bring some Rolling Stones this year, I think.