Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Building the Unified Library Scene: The ALA 2017 Guide

Hello, friends of the Unified Library Scene. ALA Annual is nearly upon us and very soon many of us will be headed to Chicago for a few days. Maybe you need some ideas of things to put on your schedule? Here are some things that may be relevant to you if you're interested in building the Unified Library Scene.

Friday (June 23):
McCormick Place W184d
CaMMS Competencies and Education for a Career in Cataloging IG

This session is about what it would mean to put the recently approved Core Competencies for Cataloging and Metadata Professional Librarians into action. I'm co-presenting about behavioral competencies, specifically Professional Curiosity.

McCormick Place W193a
ALCTS Board of Directors Meeting I

The ALCTS Board of Directors meetings are open unless they go into closed session. They're supposed to go into closed session at some point on Friday, but probably you'll be fine whenever you decide to attend. Worst case, you wait in the hall with me. I'll be headed that direction after I give my presentation.

Hyatt Regency Chicago, Columbus A-D

ALCTS 101 is a fun way to learn more about ALA's Library Collections and Technical Services division. You can circulate around the room and meet people affiliated with almost every aspect of the division.

Saturday (June 24):
McCormick Place, W184d
Intellectual Freedom and Open Access: Working Toward a Common Goal

A panel of speakers (including the always awesome April Hathcock) will explore the intersection of intellectual freedom and open access.

McCormick Place, W187b
Students Lead the Library: A Showcase of Student Contributions to the Academic Library

A panel of academic librarians features projects that featured significant participation from students.

McCormick Place. W184bc
How to be an Influential Librarian: Leading and Mentoring from Wherever You Are

An early-career, mid-career, and later-career librarian talk about their experiences in mentoring and leadership. Spoiler alert: Rachel is going to be on the panel.

Blackstone Hotel, The English Room
The Conversation: Leadership and Librarians of Color

Sponsored by LLAMA's New Professionals Section, this program features an academic librarian and a public librarian talking about their experiences as librarians of color.

McCormick Place, W184bc
Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice in Technical Services

A panel of speakers from various parts of collections and technical services will speak about initiatives that promote inclusion and social justice.

McCormick Place, W187b
Integrating Diversity Initiatives and Community Engagement: The Human Library at Penn State University

This program talks about the development of Penn State's Human Library.

McCormick Place, W184bc
From Middle Manager to Administrator: Leadership Lessons in Action

A panel of speakers from public libraries will talk about their experiences transitioning from middle managers to administrators.

Sunday (June 25):
McCormick Place, W375b
Auditorium Speaker Series, featuring Brene Brown

Social work professor and author of a lot of awesome books about vulnerability.

McCormick Place, W184bc
Libraries Are Not Neutral Spaces: Social Justice Advocacy in Librarianship

A discussion about youth services and social justice work.

McCormick Place, S101
Power That is Moral: Creating a Cataloging Code of Ethics

The annual ALCTS Cataloging and Metadata Management Section forum. If The Power to Name has had an impact on your professional practice, this session is not to be missed. Dr. Hope Olson is going to be speaking as part of this event.

McCormick Place, W176a
Where There is Thunder, There is Lightning: EDI and Change in Libraries

A series of lightning talks sponsored by ALA's Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Implementation Working Group about EDI initiatives in libraries.

Monday (June 26):
McCormick Place, W175c
The New Normal: Libraries Navigate Uncertain Times

A conversation about how libraries are existing in these current political and economic times.

McCormick Place, W192
The Business of Social Impact: Creating a World Where Everyone Has Value

A joint President's Program between LLAMA and ALCTS, this event features the CEO of the YWCA of Metro Chicago.

McCormick Place, W192
Asking for a Friend: Tough Questions (and Honest Answers) About Organizational Culture

A panel of public library administrators vow to "tell it like it is" regarding organizational culture.

McCormick Place, W471a
ALCTS Board of Directors II

This is when the transition from outgoing ALCTS Board of Directos and incoming ALCTS Board of Directors happens. Lots of good feelings and a few tears.

ALA Council Sessions:
ALA Council I
Sunday, June 25 from 8:30-11:30am
McCormick Place, W375e

ALA Council II
Monday, June 26 from 8:30-11am
McCormick Place, W375e

ALA Council III
Tuesday, June 27 from 7:30-9:30am
McCormick Place, W375e

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

It's not comforting, cheery, or kind

ALA Annual 2017 is nearly upon us and one of the things I am most looking forward to is Dr. Hope Olson's talk at the ALCTS Cataloging and Metadata Management Section's forum. Like most people who concern themselves with the myth of neutral and unbiased description of resources, I read Dr. Olson's book, The Power to Name, and found in it some arguments that have helped to orient my thinking on this topic.

CaMMS leadership posted some questions over on twitter in the hopes of generating discussion around the topic of a code of ethics for cataloging and one of the questions was about what a code of ethics might cover.
So let's do this. Let's talk about ethics in technical services librarianship.

The first thing to acknowledge is that The Guidelines for ALCTS Members to Supplement the ALA Code of Ethics was adopted by the ALCTS Board in 1994 at the most recent revision of the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association happened in 2008.

For a lot of us, the world today is incredibly different than the world we lived in 23, or even 9, years ago. But for a lot of us, for a lot of reasons, many things are the same as they ever were.

It's a fairly tepid take, but I think the values codified in both the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association and The Guidelines for ALCTS Members to Supplement the ALA Code of Ethics reflect the fact that our profession is almost 90% white. Yes, our identities are intersectional so some of the white librarians in that oft-quoted statistic, exist in both privileged and marginalized spaces. But the idea inherent in both of these documents that the professional is not also somehow personal comes from the privileged place of believing that people can simply turn off their personal beliefs and ignore their lived experiences when it comes time to staff a service point or catalog a book.

Let's be clear: the illusion of neutrality in libraries is a luxury afforded to those with privilege enough to believe that libraries somehow exist outside of systems of oppression. Libraries have always been biased and those of us with privileged identities have been part of systems that have oppressed our colleagues and our user communities whose identities are more marginalized than our own.

A catalog code of ethics that comes anything short of addressing both the ways in which libraries have served as an oppressive force and the ways in which our lived experiences impact our work is not worth the paper it's written on. And those of us with privileged identities need to ignore our impulse to engage in vocational awe (a term coined by Fobazi Ettarh in this wonderful post).

Libraries are not neutral spaces. The acquisition, description, and preservation of the materials in libraries is not a neutral act. Librarianship is not an inherently noble profession.

We build the systems and structures in our own image.

Stay positive,

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

#libleadgender chat (06/07/2017) questions

As you may recall, I'm leading a #libleadgender chat on Wednesday (6/7) at 8pm EDT about making the choice to take on significant growth opportunities. Last week, I wrote a little about my journey to getting accepted into the PhD program that I'll be starting in the fall.

In this chat, the phrase "significant growth opportunity" can mean a lot of things: starting a degree program, volunteering in a professional association, joining a structured mentoring or leadership program, or even something not mentioned here. Basically, if it's something that will help you grow and it will disrupt your life in some way, it's a significant growth opportunity!

The questions for tomorrow evening's chat:
Q1.) As you weighed whether to take on a significant growth opportunity, what factors did you consider?

Q2.) How did your identities (e.g., race, gender identity & expression, socioeconomic status, ability) affect your decision?

Q3.) How did the gendered expectations put upon you impact your decision? Would you have chosen differently if they hadn't?

Q4.) What was helpful about how your support system assisted you in the decision making process? What wasn't so helpful?

Q5.) What advice would you give someone about deciding to take on a significant growth opportunity?

You'll notice that all of the questions are phrased in the past tense. That doesn't mean that you have to be past the decision-making process. Wherever you are in the process, you're welcome to join us!

Stay positive,

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

You can see I'm single-minded

I'm going to lead a #libleadgender Twitter chat next Wednesday (6/7) at 8pm EDT on making the choice to take on a significant growth opportunity. I know that "significant growth opportunity" is pretty vague but that's intentional since I imagine that it means different things for different people. It might mean joining a leadership or mentoring program. It might mean stepping up to take on a significant volunteer leadership role. Or, if you're like me, it might mean going back to school.

I graduated from library school in December 2004. I had always dreamed of going back to get my PhD, but the time was never right. Three cities and 13 years later, the time is finally right.

At some point during 2016, I decided that it really was time to start taking seriously the idea of going back to graduate school. I spend most of the summer of 2016 studying for the GRE, which I took in November. I pulled together what I thought was a quality application packet and submitted it in December 2016. And then I waited. And worried.

I was afraid that I was too old to be taken seriously as a good candidate for a PhD program. I worried that it had been too long since I'd last been in school and that it would be a red flag for those who reviewed my application. I worried that my GRE scores weren't good enough.

In February 2017, I learned that I'd been accepted to the PhD program I applied to and in the fall I'll begin my course work. I'll continue to work full-time, so I'll be a part-time student and all signs point to the fact that it will likely take me 3 years to complete my course work and 2 years to complete my thesis.

I had to weigh a lot of factors when deciding to put in my application: how would my being in school impact my work? would I be able to be as active as I want to be in ALCTS? what will I have to give up to take this on?

These are the questions I am excited to explore as part of the #libleadgender conversation. How do you know when the time is right to take on something new that feels really enormous? How do you do that really enormous thing while also nurturing the parts of you that already exist and already important to you? And how do gendered expectations for library leaders change how we answer those questions?

Next week, I'll post the questions I intend to use as a conversation starter for our chat. If you are contemplating taking on a significant growth opportunity or if you are already there, I'd love for you to join us!

Stay positive,

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Listen close you hear what I'm about

So, let's talk about strategic planning.

If you work in a library or you belong to a professional association, you may have been caught up in the tidal wave of strategic planning. And from the outside, it may look like all talk and no action. Or it may look like a bunch of talk that impedes action. At least, that's the sense that I get from the unhappy rumblings about the idea of strategic plannings that I've heard from within librarianship. There is a sense, I think that engaging in a strategic planning process has the capacity to take us away from the ever-changing circumstances that we encounter as library workers.

And I suppose, I can appreciate the idea that underlies this sentiment. As library workers, we don't want to lose sight of the communities we serve and the circumstances that can change rapidly within those communities. We should aspire to respond quickly and thoughtfully to those circumstances and the needs they surface for the community. And we should not reduce our communities, those circumstances, or those needs to talking points in a written strategic plan.

But having said that, I think that strategic plans are unbelievably important for libraries and our professional associations because they give leaders at every level the opportunity to define what they organization is going to be about for a given period of time. The strategic planning process allows organizations to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It gives organizations the opportunity to reassess their values. And when all of that is done, organizations decide on a direction for a given period of time and decide how resources will be allocated in service of that vision. What I think is so important about strategic planning in libraries and in our professional associations is that it gives us a compass for individual library workers and association volunteers to orient our work. Each individual project and program can be evaluated using the strategic plan as a lens. And projects and programs carried out within different parts of an organization that are in service of the same strategic plan seem more alike than different. An organization's strategic plan is something that unifies all parts of an organization that seem disparate.

But as much as I can appreciate the desire to be responsive and nimble, this feeling that we need to eschew strategic planning is short sighted. First, I think that not having a strategic plan means that your organization isn't all rowing in the same direction. Sure, if you have a solid organization culture you may be operating with the same values. But the programs and projects carried out within different parts of the organization may be in service of the mission of those parts and carried out to serve their own ends rather than to serve the strategic direction of the organization as a whole. Second, I don't think that operating under a strategic plan makes an organization inherently less nimble. Library workers can still respond to the changing circumstances within their communities and reflect the changing needs of the community back to its members. That doesn't change because you have a certain strategic direction. It just means that the projects and programs library workers choose to implement to meet a community's needs will work within a certain framework or construct. I also think it's worth stating explicitly that your organization's strategic plan should be community-centered at the outset as to avoid this false tension between working within a strategic direction framework and serving your community.

In the end, I think it's more important than ever that libraries and our professional associations take the time to figure out what we're about. We need to be clear about our strengths weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. We need to be clear about the values that drive our work. And we need to be intentional about how the resources needed to meet our established strategic directions are allocated. Doing all of this work doesn't mutually exclude the capacity for libraries and our professional associations to be nimble and responsive. In fact, I would (and hopefully have) argued that one is directly related, and intrinsically linked, to the other.

Stay positive,

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The question that says everything

I got into a conversation yesterday about the ALCTS Strategic Plan. Adopted in 2015, the Plan is set to be updated during the 2017/2018 year. There is much about this Plan that I wouldn't change, but I want to point out a couple of points in the plan that I think reflect the tension, broadly, between professional associations for library workers and the members they are seeking to recruit and retain.

So let's start with the points:
IIC: Reach out to under-represented and under-involved groups (support staff and students) to encourage their participation in webinars and online meetings.
IIIC: Recruit new members, particularly students and faculty in iSchools and library programs, and public and special librarians.
IIID: Identify and address requirements for the financial sustainability of ALCTS, particularly fundraising.

So, here's the tension: ALCTS, like many professional organizations for library workers, wants to recruit and retain new members, presumably in order to help grow the next generation of Collections and Technical Services leaders. But it also needs be sustainable, financially speaking.

So let's crunch some numbers. All of this comes form ALA's personal membership page, by the way, if you want to see how this translates for the ALA division with which you affiliate yourself most closely.

For a student, membership in ALA and ALCTS is $51.
ALA membership: $36
ALCTS membership: $15
It is worth noting that ALA limits student membership fee rates to 5 years.

When you transition out of that student pricing tier, your pricing increases to one of two price points at the Association level.
Regular membership: $137
Non-salaried/Unemployed/Underemployed/Making less than $30k annually: $49

At the division-level, ALCTS charges a "regular" rate of $65 and doesn't offer a lower price tier for people who receive the lower rate at the association level.

So you could pay either $114 or $202 to be a member of both ALA and ALCTS, depending on what rate you pay at the Association level.

I should stop here and say that I don't mean to pick on ALCTS. I just used them for this exercise because they're my home within ALA.

Now that we've crunched those numbers, let's think honestly about how wanting to recruit and retain new members and how wanting to remain financially sustainable are in tension with one another.

Students and early career librarians often struggle financially because of student debt, unpaid internships, and low wages for library workers. Finding the extra room in one's budget to pay the fees to be active in professional association work simply isn't an option for a lot of our future library leaders. Our professional associations have so much to offer students and early career librarians by way of volunteer opportunities, programming, and mentorship. And while the restrictions for in-person attendance at ALA Midwinter and Annual have been loosened quite significantly, you still have to pay both an Association-level and Division-level membership fee in order to be active in committee work.

Professional associations for library workers have bills to pay, so it is a challenge to consider changing a fee structure because of its potential impact on financial sustainability. But our professional association leaders have to think about the lived experiences of the people we intend to recruit and retain as members. Without both consideration for how the current environment impacts the capacity for students and early career librarians to pay to belong to any given association and an intention to respond, professional associations won't remain financially sustainable in the long run because they'll lose a generation of members.

I know that the people engaged in leadership of professional association for library workers care deeply about the future of librarianship and about recruiting and retaining the next generation of professional association leadership. But until we take seriously the financial burden that association membership places upon students and early career librarians, we can't move forward.

Stay positive,

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

And you were only joking

I did not think I would be writing a blog post about Annoyed Librarian in 2017. On the one hand, I feel like it's a funny conceit whose time has come and gone--a librarian who has contrary takes on literally every subject in libraryland. You would think that Twitter has rendered this particular conceit obsolete, especially with the anonymous garbage fire Hot Take Machine that is LIS Grievances. Normally I would offer you a permalink, but that particular account is such hot burning garbage that you're on your own. But, much to basically everyone's chagrin, the Annoyed Librarian is still a thing.

Much like Drake, Annoyed Librarian started at the bottom. By which I mean that she (and I am using "she" instead of "they" because she identifies that way on her About page) published her blog on a Blogspot platform. And, much like Drake, now she's here. And by here, I mean she's publishing fairly prolifically on the Library Journal platform. There's something truly admirable, I suppose, about a blog that started in Aught Six still producing content all of these years later. I mean, the Unified Library Scene started in 2014 and some weeks a blog post never makes it to being published. So, props for her tenacity I guess.

Because we're still torturing this comparison: much like Drake, the Annoyed Librarian has kept it real from the jump. I mean, when hasn't she said what we were all thinking about how we, the Special Library Snowflakes, are just always going on about something dumb? It's her capacity to keep it real from the jump that makes Annoyed Librarian the hero we really all need right now. And does it really matter that her attempt at satire fall flat and come across as angry rants that remind us of Grandpa Simpson yelling at a cloud?

Old man yells at cloud

I mean, look, satire is hard to do well. It requires that the person writing the satiric piece have just the right tone. You have to write so skillfully that you can hold that contrary point of view and also let the audience know you're winking at them, that you're in on the joke. And sometimes when you're writing as much as Annoyed Librarian writes, you have to write quickly. And when you write quickly, you don't always have the the capacity to be that skillful.

You know the expression about good, cheap, and fast don't you?

Look, much like how boys tell stories about Drake, we like to tell stories about Annoyed Librarian. We like to say that she's toxic and not funny and that she's everything wrong with librarianship. Well, most of the time we forget she's a thing until we're forced to acknowledge her. And then we say she's toxic. And most of us are able to recognize poorly written satire when we see it (ahem) but some people aren't. I know you're not supposed to read the comments, but if you look at the comments of her most recent gem, a lovingly crafted satirical masterpiece about the Little Free Library movement, you can see that at least some people take her seriously.

I would like to say that Annoyed Librarian's time has come and gone but as long as Library Journal gives her space on their site, it hasn't. And probably we'll all go back to forgetting her until we remember her and yet another person will write yet another hot take about how damaging her brand of writing is for librarianship.

But until this time, maybe the Annoyed Librarian is the hero we all need. Probably not, but maybe.

Stay positive,