Tag Archives: Library Issues

Why I support #teamharpy

13 Oct

I touched on this a while back, and have posted extensively about it on social media, but I realized I couldn’t countenance writing another entry here until I’d talked about #teamharpy at greater length. Frankly, it’s overdue, and I’m sorry about that.

I support #teamharpy. I admire nina de jesus and Lisa Rabey for their courage and their actions.

I support #teamharpy because harassment is a problem in the library world and beyond, and it’s only going to get worse if we ignore it or try to silence those who speak to it. That’s certainly the case within our profession as we continue to look to tech culture, start-ups and the like for inspiration, because if anything the culture there is worse.

I support #teamharpy because I’ve seen the pushback to even the most basic attempts to combat harassment at conferences — the ALA and SLA Codes of Conduct, for example, not to mention the actual enforcement of same — so I have no patience for critics who claim that #teamharpy didn’t address this situation in the correct way. What the correct way would’ve been is always poorly defined, because better means to address this kind of situation basically don’t exist. I wish they did. We should make it so they do, but let’s not pretend we already have.

I support #teamharpy because librarians, as a profession, should oppose SLAPP suits whenever they occur. If we’re willing to call out this kind of behavior when it’s a publisher trying to silence a librarian, it’s unconscionable to claim that we have to shut up and “let the courts decide” when it occurs within our own community.

I support #teamharpy because it’s the right thing to do.


EDIT: I can’t believe I forgot to link to the petition asking Joe Murphy to drop the lawsuit. Go forth and sign it.


Stuff and happenings

23 Sep

Three items of note:

First, there’s a little more than 24 hours left in the SLA Board of Directors election. If you can vote and haven’t yet, do so! If you have, thanks for stepping up to make the Association stronger. And in case anyone’s new to this blog, I am running for President-Elect, so please throw some consideration my way.

Second, I wrote a long post over at Cornell University Library’s Digital Scholarship and Preservation Services blog about the Repository Executive Group. (For those of you who prefer brevity, I posted in the CUL DSPS blog about RepoExec.*) Chairing that committee made up a large part of my fellowship work, and I cover a lot of what we did in that post.

Finally, if you haven’t been following the #teamharpy case, I recommend checking out the blog that nina de jesus and Lisa Rabey have set up, which both explains the case and lets you donate to their defense. Also very much worth highlighting is their call for witnesses. It is a deeply messed up situation that they’re in, and I admire their actions and their courage. They have my support, and deserve yours.

So, that’s what’s up. A lot going on, and in less than 36 hours I’m going to find out a lot more about my next three years. Be well, folks.


* Though, if you prefer breveity, you probably won’t like the post.

Support the Ada Initiative

12 Sep

I support the Ada Initiative, because they do awesome things that need doing:

The Ada Initiative supports women in open technology and culture through activities such as producing codes of conduct and anti-harassment policies, advocating for gender diversity, teaching ally skills, and hosting conferences for women in open tech/culture.

There’s nothing in there that’s not spectacular and necessary. And profoundly relevant to libraries, especially as our interactions with the tech world grow deeper and more ubiquitous.

Plus, right now there’s a campaign going on where the library community will be matching donations:

Donate to the Ada Initiative

The Ada Initiative deserves your support, including your financial support if that’s within your means. If you don’t believe me, believe Amy Buckland and Barbara Fister. (If you don’t believe them, than I’m not sure I can help you.)

National Library Workers Day

15 Apr

NLWD LogoToday — April 15, 2014 — is National Library Workers Day, a day “for library staff, users, administrators and Friends groups to recognize the valuable contributions made by all library workers.” Established by the ALA-Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA) in 2003, it’s now celebrated on the Tuesday of National Library Week.

It’s never the wrong time to be thinking about advocacy for libraries and libraryfolk, and that’s something that transcends the boundaries of professional organizations. For the SLA folks, I especially recommend checking out those portions of the Galaxy of Stars dedicated to works from special, academic, and government libraries.

And we should all take some time to think about what we’ve done lately to stand up for the folks who help make our organizations run. Especially those whose positions are, all too often, the most vulnerable.

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.

NYLA: Repositories and Open Access

30 Sep

Last week, I got to go to my first New York Library Association conference, and it was a blast. As I mentioned previously, Amy Buckland and I gave our workshop on digital repository strategies and practice. It’s a workshop I love, because no matter how many times we’ve given it it’s never the same: Amy and I always have new experiences to relate, and the groups we work with are always so different that their questions and insights are new and revelatory each time.

Items of note this go-round: it was the first time that just about everyone in the room seemed to have adequate or nigh-adequate staffing for their repository projects — hallelujah! — and the folks running Digital Commons @Brockport are doing some amazing things.

I also had the honor of sitting on a panel with Amy and Jenica Rogers, talking about Open Access in scholarly publishing. We went with a simple format: we put what we hoped would be a provocative statement up on a slide, and then got a discussion going with the audience about it. There were six statements in total, and if you read Jenica’s blog*, you’ve likely seen them already. I’ll reproduce them here because they got great discussion at NYLA, and great discussion on her blog, and I’m curious to see if we can pull off a great discussion trifecta. Or hat-trick.  Or similar sports metaphor for something happening three times. In any case, here they are:

  1. A child born today will use nothing but open access materials for research in college.

  2. Textbook companies will go out of business as faculty realize they can write, compile, and publish their own customized open course texts.

  3. Future discussions of the quality of library collections will focus not on the collections a library owns, but on the collections a library creates.

  4. The adoption of open access collections will obviate proprietary discovery layers.

  5. It is irresponsible for federally-funded researchers not to make their work available in an open format.

  6. True change in the scholarly publishing system will come from smaller liberal arts colleges, and not the big guys.

Oh, and Amy provided what’s probably the best opening slide ever.

So, discuss in the comments if you have a mind to, or head over to Jenica’s and jump in the discussion there. In any case, I’d love to hear your thoughts.


* And if you don’t, why the hell not?

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.

Do they think we’re stupid?

27 Feb

Shorter Elsevier:

For anyone who doesn’t know why I’m referencing glorious 1980s cartoons in relation to a major publisher of scholarly journals, here’s the quick rundown of today’s event that I wrote for the SLA Academic Division blog, presented here in its entirety because I freakin’ wrote it.

As a follow-up to our earlier post regarding the Elsevier boycott, the publisher released a statement today indicating that they have withdrawn their support for the Research Works Act.

The statement is worth reading in full; while Elsevier will no longer openly support the RWA, they still oppose government efforts to require the open release of research:

Therefore, while withdrawing support for the Research Works Act, we will continue to join with those many other nonprofit and commercial publishers and scholarly societies that oppose repeated efforts to extend mandates through legislation. 

Long story short, this debate is far from over, and it remains to be seen whether those participating in the boycott will consider this policy change sufficient.

When I write under SLA Academic’s auspices, I try to be a bit reserved. But here, let me make it clear:  in no way, shape, or form is this change in policy sufficient for anyone to change their minds about how truly terrible Elsevier is.

I mean, how much more blatant could they make it? “Our most recent attempt to quash efforts to undermine our extremely profitable racket of stolen labor and institutionalized extortion has failed, because seriously, y’all have made the letters ‘RWA’ completely toxic. But as soon as we come up with a slightly revised law under a different name and send it to our pet Senators and Representatives, we’ll be right back in the game, baby.”

They’re not giving up. They’ve told us that clearly.

We can’t give up either.

Talking to future librarians

18 Nov

…is certainly different from talking about them.

I have an odd relationship with the physical Syracuse University. While I’ve been as immersed in Cornell’s environs about as much as a human my age can be, I only spent 14 days at SU during the two years I studied there; distance programs are like that. And more than half of that class time was spent in a building that’s not even the iSchool’s official home, which was being renovated back in 2007.

But that didn’t cause me a moment’s hesitation when I was invited to talk to this Fall’s IST 511 (Introduction to the Library and Information Profession) class about academic librarianship.

Jill Hurst-Wahl was the main lecturer that evening, and my portion preceded the Syracuse University Library’s own Natasha Cooper (who’d been one of the instructors for my own IST 511 class four years ago).  I put together a presentation, the slides of which can be found here. (As usual, a lot of the meaning is lost without the voiceover, but I do think that slide #6 is complete unto itself.)

I really enjoyed the experience, and it was great to answer questions and discuss elements of academic library work both during the class, in the hallways of Hinds afterwards, and on Twitter over the last couple of days. I’m grateful to everyone involved, and I’d jump at the chance to do this again in the future.

Two points of follow-up:

1. I was thrilled to see that the iSchool was also covering the more esoteric elements of library professional development:

Photographic evidence of rockin' professional developmen... on Twitpic

2. I was asked during the initial Q&A period about librarians jumping from public to academic libraries, and vice versa. I asked around on various social networks, and found examples of both.  One prominent local example is Susan Currie, director of the Tompkins County Public Library, who spent many years working and leading at Cornell and Binghamton University. Most of the other examples were shared directly with me, but I’d be glad to discuss them over email if folks are interested.