Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday jams (10/31/2014)

I've never really been into Halloween--especially since, as an adult, I can buy candy any time I want. But the town I live in now goes wild for Halloween. So I've decided that the only appropriate jam for today is a spooky jam. And nothing is spookier to me than Michael Jackson's Thriller. I find both the song and the video irrationally terrifying--especially Vincent Price's throaty, maniacal laughter at the end. For a video made in the early 80s, I have to say that it's aged pretty well.

Beware...the video is 13 minutes long.


Now that we're done with THAT. Let's move along to Robyn. I have no idea why I don't post a Robyn song every single week because she is an all-powerful life-giver. This week, we're gonna rock some positive jam from the new mini-album with Röyksopp. I'm gonna listen to this song. and then I'm gonna do it. a. gain.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

You Never Know Who Is In The Room

I was required to go to a training last week as part of a wonderful campus initiative to improve awareness and response to sexual assault and sexual violence. The training was conducted by the fantastically amazingly awesome Juliette Grimmett, who I cannot say enough good things about. Since I've written on being the only one, I want to talk to you today about how it feels to be seen and heard. How powerful it is, especially when you're not expecting it.

And we don't expect it. That's the nature of being in a marginalized group. You get used to not being accounted for, you expect it, you develop strategies for dealing with it.  So when Juliette conducted an entire training session with attention to using gender neutral terms and being inclusive of gender non-conforming folks throughout our three-hour session, without making any kind of deal, just as her way of being, I was blown away. I really was. At first I thought "oh that's nice, nice to hear these things," but as the session went on, I started to feel... safe.  This was all on the acts of one person, nobody else in the room (to my knowledge) had made any kind of special commitment to being gender inclusive. Nobody else was being forced or even asked to be gender inclusive. Having one person speak in an inclusive way without being asked and without making a huge deal about it in a room of dozens of people told me that at least this one person, I could trust. It made me think: maybe there is a world where this is the norm, maybe we can get there.

This is the weight of it: I felt that I should thank Juliette because I have NEVER seen that before, and I went to tell her, and when I did, I cried. That surprised me. I don't know that it surprised her, but it probably reinforced what she told me, which is that she does it because it is important to her.

I'm telling you this story because it is an example of the kind of profound impact we all can have, every day, by being careful about and attentive to our language. You can create a space where someone feels safe, feels heard, feels at home.  It is so easy, especially as we live busy lives, to use lazy and dangerous language. You, me, we might think, I will be careful to use inclusive language when it is appropriate.  But look, you never know who is in the room. You don't know their entire story. When you are careful all of the time, you will surely happen upon a staff member, a student, a teen, a colleague, someone who will be changed. Someone who will be open to working with you because they know you care about language and you care about them because you use careful language.

It isn't just that it's the right thing to do, it is that the biggest impact is going to happen when you least expect it. So let's be open by being careful. Let's make the world that I didn't dare hope existed. Let's go.

Keep rockin',

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

On getting up and trying again

In March of 2011, I ran a 10k in South Florida. It was a hot, slow, terrible race with very little shade and I finished it by sheer force of will.

I had no idea, in retrospect how important that race was going to be.

Since 2011, I have run five half-marathons and a lot of shorter races. In 2012 and 2013, I ran a race every month. And in 2013, I participated in New York Road Runner's 9+1 program to get guaranteed entry into the NYC Marathon.

In 2014, I moved from Brooklyn to Georgia to take a new job. Two weeks into my new job, I stepped of a curb, rolled my ankle, and sprained it pretty significantly. I was kind of bummed that I didn't get crutches, but I did get a pretty intimidating looking lace-up brace. Between the new job and the injury, I had to take a few months off from running. I haven't come anywhere close to running a race per month and 5k, a distance that has pretty recently felt easy to me, seems like a huge challenge.

Despite all of that, I've been running since mid-August. I started on the Couch to 5k program, the program that I used when I started running. I started with run/walks on the treadmill that were more walking than running and moved to running outside. I have increased my distance and need fewer walking breaks. I have to wear my brace when I run, but it's pretty cool to see how far I've come in such a short amount of time.

On Sunday, I ran my first 5k since moving to Georgia on an out-and-back on our town's greenway. I had, for a few weeks, been running the greenway three times per week. I'd been building up distance-1.5 miles, 1.75 miles, 2 miles but I'd never done the full 5k out-and-back.

Sunday was warmer than it had been for most of the month of October and the race was at 2:30 in the afternoon. I had never run the entire 5k course before and I didn't realize how much of it wasn't shaded. Even in a sleeveless shirt and shorts, I overheated. I had a hot, slow, terrible run and it was devastating to me. I was sad that I couldn't run like I used to and sad that 3 years of work had seemingly been wiped out by three months of inactivity driven by injury.

I was embarrassed and sad and I really wanted to quit running forever. For about two hours on Sunday afternoon, I was ready to turn in my running shoes and all of the free shirts I've gotten as race giveaways. I didn't feel like I had it in me to go running ever again.

I think failure does that to you. I think failure makes you forget that sometimes you don't succeed on the first try. I think failure clouds your vision and renders you incapable of seeing what you've done well. Having a terrible time on a hot day made me forget that four months ago, walking was difficult and I had to wear a brace to ALA Annual in Vegas. One run blinded me to everything that I wrote in the previous paragraphs in this post.

When the fog of embarrassment and sadness lifted, I recognized that while I had come a long way from where I started in August, between the hilly terrain and warmer climate of Georgia and the injury I'd sustained, I was going to have recalibrate what success in running meant to me. I would have to build my endurance more slowly and be kinder to myself when an unexpected warm day led to a less than stellar run.

This week, I'm going to sign up to run another 5k that will take place on that same greenway in a couple of weeks. My hope is that a few more weeks of training and (hopefully) cooler temperatures will lead to a more agreeable outcome. I am using my time from Sunday's 5k as a benchmark and I'm hopeful that my run in a couple of week will lead to a new-to-me PR. Sure, it's a lot slower than where I was at the beginning of 2014, but I have to start somewhere.

The point is this, dear reader: don't let failure stop you from doing the things you really want to do. Allow yourself to wallow for a minute if you need to, but get back up and try again. Whether it's a run that didn't go well or a work project that didn't go as planned, there's always another chance to do it again. Don't let the fog of embarrassment and sadness derail you from that awesome plan you have. Instead, use that failure to serve as your baseline for the next attempt. Do better, push past it, and set a new baseline. The thing that nobody ever thinks to tell you is that sometimes your dreams are more of an iterative design process than a straight line.

Stay positive,

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Jams (10/24/2014)

I feel like I've had a sub-par week and I need to up my game. I feel like I could be kicking significantly more ass than I am currently kicking. I feeeeeeel, I feeeeeeel, I don't know, maybe this?

This weekend I'm running my first race since moving halfway across the country in May and then spraining my ankle. It's only a 5k, but I'm excited and nervous and hopeful about what this 5k means in my progress back toward being a "real" runner again. Matt and Kim have been a playlist staple of mine since I started running. This song is currently the one in the rotation, but it might change.

Don't forget to breathe now, forget to breathe now.

What We Do All Day

I'm a middle manager. I'm not afraid to admit it, and I'm not ashamed of being it. I make things happen. On the ground. I advocate for staff, I advocate for the institution. I get to do all kinds of awesome things. I really, really, really enjoy it.

One of the greatest challenges of being a middle manager is the way that a line can be drawn between the kinds of work we do. Between administrative work and what I'll call it production work, between your team and the team of which you're a smaller part.

What is not cool, I tell you it is not cool, is when we think of administrative work as "meetings" and production work as "real work."  Meetings are real work. Say it with me. Meetings are real work. It is my job to go to meetings. It is my real job to go and talk to people. It is my real job to know what is going on in our building and in the larger organization and to talk to people and go to meetings. Meetings are real work.

"Real Work" is real work, too. And meetings take time. In middle management, the challenge is to balance the administrative work (both broadly and of your group specifically) along with the other duties you may have (original cataloging, vendor relations, teaching and reference, assessment, etc. etc.) and for me, also faculty responsibilities for research and scholarship.  That's a lot of stuff. Perhaps another time we'll talk about strategies for managing all these things.

What is not okay is a scenario in which you do administrative work during the day, when other people are around and able to have meetings, and production work at night or in other off hours. That's not okay because the night is not for work. Work time is for work. Night time is for, you know, your life. No.

I insist you have a life even if you do not want one. You need it to make that leap from good at your job to omg so incredibly amazing at your job.

So, case in point. I have about six meetings a week. That's not too many. But sometimes, they come all at once, like yesterday and today. I thought, on Wednesday night, let me just write my blog now, during the baseball game, and then it'll be done and cool cool. But instead I did this:

Which was good. Because it made me feel good. And that's a good use of my time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Knight News Challenge and the real future of libraries

The Knight Foundation is an American non-profit that, according to their About the Foundation page "supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts."

In addition to the regular grant work that the Knight Foundation does, the foundation has a suite of "challenges" that it has on a regular basis: the Knight News Challenge, the Knight Arts Challenge, and the Knight Community Information Challenge.

This year's Knight News Challenge drew the interest of the library community because it had a libraries-related prompt: How might we leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgeable communities?

The Knight News Challenge received 680 submissions. Of those 680 submissions, 41 were chosen as semifinalists. These 41 semifinalists stand to receive anywhere between $1,000 and $1,000,000 to develop their ideas in exchange for (with some exceptions) making their outputs either open source or Creative Commons.

Take a look at these semifinalists; in their applications you'll see the real future of libraries. From creating 3-D books for blind children to creating a Media Mentor Academy to equip current and future librarians to serve as technology guides in their communities, to creating a lending library for skill sharing, each of these semifinalists represents what libraries will become if we ask the hard questions about which of our services are vital to the community.

To me, these 41 semifinalists represent the real future of libraries: user-centered, needs-driven organizations. Yes, we'll have to push off some of the tasks that have less value to our users. But the things we can take on, as we dream big and keep the needs of our community squarely in mind, have the capacity to transform. I'm thrilled to see not only which ideas are chosen as the winners, but also to see how those ideas that aren't funded play out on a potentially smaller scale.

I think it's also worth noting that the Knight News Challenge spins the Future of Libraries question in a positive light. We often see news items or think pieces about how librarianship is headed for certain doom or obsolescence. The Knight Foundation's library-oriented challenge points out something in its prompt: libraries are not only the collections they provide. They can also be a platforms for community engagement and safe havens in stressful times for a community.

Congratulations are owed not only to those chosen as semi-finalists, but also to all of the people who submitted ideas. It's your enthusiasm, forward thinking, and user-centeredness that will help librarianship grow into something amazing.

Stay positive,

Monday, October 20, 2014

Emergency Monday Jams (10/20/2014)

What's with today today?

It's just not as amazing as it should be for me, and library twitter seems a little slow and sad, too. So Erin and I figured that we might need some emergency Monday jams. I'd say we're going to kick them out, but we might just gently scoot them with our feet at first.

Some europop is a go-to for a re-pep-ifying for me. Here's some now:

I know a song is good for raising my spirits and my energy level if it makes me dance in my chair. This song definitely gets me moving.

So...what songs do you turn to when you need an Emergency Monday Jam? Let us know in the comments!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Jams! (10/17/2014)


The students are gone so we can feel free to listen to the jams from when we were their age:

I try to keep up with new music, but I often find myself listening to the 80s channel on satellite radio when I'm in the car. I've heard this song a lot lately and I feel like it's a good Friday Jam, especially if you've had a long week. You're still standing! You made it to Friday! Well done, you!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What Are We Afraid Of?

I have this fear of dropping my keys down a grate.  It's like my fear of heights, only infinitely more reasonable. If I am not mindful of my keys, a perfectly reasonable series of events could lead to my dropping my keys down a grate and that would totally suck. A friend of mine once had his keys in his sweatshirt pocket, and they ended up flushed down a convenience store bathroom toilet two hours from his house. These things happen! Moreover, my fear of dropping my keys down a grate causes me to act in ways which result in my keys never getting dropped down a grate. So it is a reasonable and effective fear.

Now, librarians have some fears which are, if I may, just ridiculous. These are, of course, the Image Of Librarians and The Future Of Libraries. Personally, I am so confused about why we have these fears I can hardly react. But I'm going to have a go at deconstructing them because that seems like fun and I learned some stuff about how to think about things last week. So.

We're afraid of our perceptions of people's perceptions: of librarians and libraries. The cultural thing that is "a library" and "a librarian" is much easier to define, and people's "perceptions" about them are easy to say. It's lazy thinking, and as I've talked about before, lazy thinking is dangerous, and it's our collective responsibility to say something about it.

If we don't know what folks in our communities really think about libraries and librarians, that's on us. People have deeply complex ideas about libraries and librarians. People have deeply complex views on pretty much everything. If you ask and are willing to listen, people will tell you all about it. Erin wrote about asking our users this question a little while back.

So the real question is why do we prefer our lazy thinking to having a discussion with people in our community? I think we're scared of what they'll say. I think we know that we might not be doing a super job. I think we know that we've somehow got our entire identities tied up in doing work we know isn't vital. I think we want to do what's best for our libraries and our communities but are scared to jump. That's not about the Image Of Librarians or the Future Of Librarians at all, that's on us as individual people dealing with our Stuff.  Trust me, I know Stuff isn't easy, but, I mean, suck it up. We've got important work to be doing.

Reasonable fears keep my keys out of grates, but lazy thinking, unreasonable fears and hand-wringing keep our focus away from the simple steps that will lead to our institutions being vital in our communities and our ability to make powerful change in those communities. Let's keep our eye on the prize.

Keep Rockin',

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The care and feeding of tall poppies

I wrote a guest post over at Letters to a Young Librarian last week directed toward librarianship's tall poppies. I wanted to follow-up that post with a second one directed toward everyone else.

If you are a librarian who has been in the profession for any length of time, you probably have tall poppies in your midst. You know, those high-achieving librarians, mostly newer to the profession, who have great ideas. It's possible that you have a tall poppy for a colleague in your library or that you serve alongside one in the professional association of your choice. Unfortunately, tall poppies aren't treated very well in librarianship. They are often attacked and alienated because their drive to succeed intimidates people. As a result of this treatment, tall poppies often end up leaving librarianship for more welcoming professions.

As a colleague of a tall poppy, I think that it's your duty to help create a warm, welcoming atmosphere in which a tall poppy can flourish.

We can start to create an atmosphere where tall poppies can flourish by creating a workplace where they can ask questions and make suggestions without fearing alienation from colleagues. Maybe you've been a librarian so long that you've forgotten, but I think that being a new librarian is really tough. I think it's doubly difficult when you come to a workplace with ideas and get shut down by colleagues who say but we've always done it this way! By being the colleague who listens to a tall poppy's ideas and giving feedback, you can help them understand the best way to present an idea to the appropriate person at the appropriate time. Being a mentor to a tall poppy is the best way to ensure a smooth transition for that new librarian into their new workplace. Yes, being a mentor is time consuming and you have a lot to do, but we owe it to our tall poppies to help them assimilate.

I think that another way to create a warm, welcoming environment for tall poppies is to stop treating them like new hire messiahs. While they come to us with a variety of talents, our tall poppy colleagues do not have the ability to magically transform our libraries into vibrant, user-centered spaces. And furthermore, this kind of work can't be done by a single person. We can't expect that our tall poppy colleagues will be good at everything, nor can we ask them to single-handedly create a library-wide service without support from library leadership. Rather than expecting a tall poppy to carry the library on their back, managers needs to develop the skills to support tall poppies as they develop as professionals and assume their place as leaders in librarianship.

Finally, we must start owning our behavior when it comes to being cruel to tall poppies, especially in online spaces. If you spend any time online, you are probably familiar with Wheaton's Law. Essentially, it boils down to making the choice not to be a jerk to people. When we encounter a tall poppy, our first instinct might be to feel threatened by their success. Or, we might feel weary by all of the awards and accolades handed out to tall poppies. Both, I think, are reasonable responses. But we have a choice: we can react unkindly and attack the accolade and the recipient or we can react kindly and congratulate the tall poppy on their success. If we truly feel like the awards system is flawed, we can work to change it. But I would argue that we should also endeavor to choose kindness we can.

Last week, Rachel argued that what we're about in the Unified Library Scene is ownership: owning our profession, our institution, and our community. Part of ownership is taking responsibility for creating a safe space for others to grow. By caring for our tallest poppies, we build the Unified Library Scene. And that's what we're about here.

Stay positive,

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday jams (10/10/2014)

For a while now, one of my favorite bands has been Against Me!, a punk band out of Gainesville. Their lead singer, Laura Jane Grace, has a web series on AOL On called True Trans, which debuts today. In honor of that, I wanted to share the video for my favorite Against Me! song called "Borne on the FM waves of the heart." It features Tegan Quin from Tegan and Sara and it's pretty much the perfect sad song.

A weird aside: Australian singer Ben Lee covered New Wave, the album this song comes from, in it entirety and released it for free. It's kind of amazing.

Okay, it's still Erin. Rachel is still off at the ALA/Harwood Institute Public Innovators Lab in Atlanta and it's my job to post Rachel's jam: Salt-N-Pepa's Push it.

Here's Salt-N-Pepa performing Push it live in 2011 at the SiriusXM Backspin studios:

When I was looking for a version of that song to put on the blog, I also came across the video entitled "Animals dancing to Salt-N-Pepa's Push it" and, well, it's exactly what it sounds like.

You're welcome. Happy Friday.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

How To Be

Neither institute, conference, nor innovators lab shall stop me from blogging for you.  But it will influence what I talk about.

So I'm attending the ALA/Harwood Institute Public Innovators Lab in beautifully humid Atlanta this week.  One of the titles of this lab is Libraries Transforming Communities. This lab is into the kinds of things that we're into at Constructive Summer, writ large onto a the idea of driving transformative change within communities. Next week I'll have much more, but since I'm in the midst of it right now I just want to share with you this:

See how this is what we're all about here?  First, ownership: it's yours - your profession, your institution, your community.  So what does it mean like to own your work and your community?  You have to be open to discovery, which means risk, you have to listen to learn, your have to care so deeply, you have to be ready to hold opposing views at once (maybe just for a minute) and finally you have to start to be brutally honest with yourself.

Right, seems clear enough. But this is what I want to underline about it: this way of being isn't a thing that you reach, it is a practice.  You practice a practice even well after you master it because it isn't an end state. The more you practice it the easier it gets, the more you practice it the more infrequently you fail miserably, the more brutally honest you can be with yourself.  Start a practice in being in a safe space and grow it out.  Start today.

Keep Rockin',

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

On silos

Confession time:
As much as I preach cross-collaboration, I am guilty of "silo thinking."

"Silo" is a concept developed in 1988 by Phil Ensor and documented in this essay. Essentially, a siloed organization is one where each process is managed in a top-down way with very little interaction with other functions. It's bad for an organization because there is very little cross-collaboration and it's bad for employees because they feel stuck in top-down relationships with management.

This top-down way of accomplishing things is referred to as "siloed" because the process looks, well, like a silo.


Though "silo" is a business buzzword, it certainly shows up in libraries, too. Cataloging exists in one silo and only works with Acquisitions when there are questions about order records. Reference exists in a silo and only reaches out to Cataloging when it runs into trouble with something in the OPAC. Digital Projects exists in another silo and only partners with Cataloging when a collection of items is digitized and the MARC metadata needs to be cross-walked into another schema.

I think that to some extent, there is no getting around having silos in a library. Each department in a library has its own set of priorities and its own way of accomplishing those goals. Cataloging has to get books onto the shelves, real or virtual, and must have a process for accomplishing that task. Reference has to help users find resources and must have a process for identifying what users need.

But I also think that there are functions that are larger than any one department. And that's where "silo thinking" doesn't work Responsibility for those cross-departmental functions may rest upon a single person and that person may reside in a department. But what really makes these bigger-than-me functions succeed is when we agree to bust out of this way of thinking and really work together.

I was faced with my own "siloed thinking" recently when someone suggested that ALCTS, the American Library Association's technical services division, should be involved in Open Access Week. It was a cool idea, sure, but I didn't immediately see the connection between technical services and open access. But upon further examination, I recognized my own "silo thinking" at work. Open access is one of those bigger-than-me functions that requires buy-in and effort from every part of the library. Yes, the Scholarly Communications Librarian may be situated in Reference. But in order to make a push at your library to make open access work, you need Acquisitions to be on board with adding OA publications to your Knowledge Base. And you have to have Digital Projects on board with supporting the institutional repository.

Where do you get stuck in "siloed thinking" and what can you do to bust out of it? Drop me a line in the comments!

Stay positive,

Friday, October 3, 2014

Friday jams (10/3/2014)

Hey, guess what! IT'S FRIDAY!

*throws confetti*

I could be wrong, but I feel like we could all use a nice dance party to close out the week. If this jam doesn't make you want to celebrate Friday with a chair dance, well, that's on you. Because it's awesome. Me? I'll be over here chair dancing like a fool.


Wow. Okay. Well then. So I have something completely different.
I'm getting ready for Yom Kippur which starts tonight, so I'm all kinds of contemplative. This song by Gary Allan is, it's just my favorite song about repentance.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Sins of Omission

For me, this year has been one of revelation.  The events this year in Gaza and in Ferguson made me think hard about communities I love and how they operate as institutions of oppression, even when they're doing much better than Israel and St. Louis County were doing this summer (and now). Even more importantly, I realized that thinking right about tough issues isn't enough. What that meant was some hard conversations with my parents about their city (a city I love), and some very tough conversations in my faith community (I don't want to talk about those). And these have to be ongoing, like the way I have to keep learning and growing in my own understanding. But if I think right and say nothing and do nothing, my thoughts have no value. In fact, to do nothing where I could have done something is an equal sin to doing the wrong myself.

I want to try now to expand that to my professional life: to start to look at what it would be like to address with action the of sins of omission we commit frequently in libraries and higher education.
 I really want your help with this, too, please leave your comments. Let's start with keeping out mouths shut when we shouldn't.

First, I think that we, as librarians, we don't speak our minds generally, let alone on tough issues. It could be rooted in the history of our pink profession, or because someone fears retaliation for a simple disagreement.  Instead of focusing on what it might mean for us to speak up on a professional matter, think about what you are doing when you don't speak. You could be creating a poorer user experience. If you don't speak up to say "tell me about how this will affect patrons," or "I really don't think that will be the student response to this service, let's get some more data," you may be actively damaging the experience users have in your library.

We also don't speak up professionally, because we don't feel sufficiently expert, because we don't think people see us as sufficiently expert, because a topic isn't sufficiently "professional" and a myriad of other reasons. Take for instance, net neutrality, U.S. domestic surveillance, discrimination and abuse in our profession, lack of diversity in the profession, on and on. On these issues, it is helpful for me to think: what kind of professional am I if I don't feel the need to educate myself? do I want to be in that kind of profession? So I hope to, in the next year, do more work on both educating myself and helping us all to educate ourselves so that we can speak out with authority on issues of import to ourselves and our communities.

Now, don't get me wrong: I intend a full level of professionalism in these discussions. It is professional to have a disagreement. In fact, a passionate disagreement is professional (I want you to be passionate about your work!) So my ideal is something like we passionately speak our minds in disagreement giving respect where it is due to our colleagues because THAT is the only way to get the best outcomes.

So that's a start. What do you think our biggest sins of omission are as a profession? What can we do to address them? Let me know in the comments.

and Keep Rockin',