Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Jams! (1/30/2015)


It's Midwinter Time, and Midwinter may be in cold chicago, and my mountain may be covered in a thin sheet of ice, but it is time for Jams! You can't deny jams. You can't deny Jimmy Eat World.

No it's still rachel because erin is busy being awesome at ALA Midwinter. Say hello! Erin's jam is also an undeniable indisputable jam that should guide your ALA Midwinter experience.

Not only should you take these jams and jam to them, you should take their messages to heart today and everyday.

Go forth, keep rocking, be awesome.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Introverts and Introspection

One of the first things that Erin and I connected over was "introverts and leadership." As we move along in our explorations here at Constructive Summer, the ways that we (us introverts) want to make change is all about relationships and caring about people, about dreaming big and making a path to get there. Introverts and introversion have become a real popular topic recently, and there is a lot of research that I haven't read on the subject of introverts and leadership, and relationships, etc etc etc.

That all puts me in mind of personality tests as management tools. When the myriad of different personality tests are administered as some sort of management tactic or team building effort, the real goal of such an effort isn't so much to have people reflect on themselves. The real goal (which I have not ever seen fully implemented) is to provide a framework for understanding ourselves in relation to our coworkers. The goal is to facilitate a discussion of our work dynamics.

Attention to others is, for me, the foundation of what exhausts me about being around other people. I spend a great deal of energy trying to figure out where people are coming from, what their likely moves are, that I am truly understanding what they are saying, and so forth. Additionally, I spend a lot of energy considering the interactions I have had specifically, in addition to just generally doing a great deal of reflection, which I will discuss later.

I don't think that being introverted is the root of what I feel I am good at, but I do think that my introversion is deeply connected with the way I am in the world and the practices that do make me good at what I do. I'd love to hear from you (especially extroverts) if you have the same experience. The tools that make me good at what I do, the ones that make me a good leader and effective professional are: attention to detail with an ability to scope out to a systems view; the ability, desire and openness to understand other perspectives and the assumptions underlying those views; and the sum of the two -- an attention to how I and the messages I am sending will be received by different audiences.

It seems all very Machiavellian when I lay it out like that, and maybe it is. For me, operating in a social world has always been about trying to figure out the rules and, because I operate fueled entirely by the approval of others, follow them very carefully for the advancement of my chosen causes. I don't think I'm all that different from a lot of people. Which all goes to say the kind of reflection that management may try to get at through team building personality tests may already be baked in to how many library employees operate. Tapping into that may be more efficient than trying to recreate it from scratch.

The kind of understanding we build when we reflect on ourselves and our relationships with our work colleagues is the first building block of a successful............. strategic plan. Tune in next week for building block number two!

Keep Rockin'

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Critically acclaimed and respected

Pretty early in my career, I realized I wanted to be a leader. It might be gauche of me to admit my desire to be influential, but I think that it's not an uncommon feeling among of subset of new librarians. And the more we talk about it, the less likely it is that we'll scare away newer librarians in favor of friendlier professions.

The thing I realized almost immediately after realizing I wanted to be a leader is that it's really challenging to lead if you don't have administrative power. After all, it's hard to get people to follow you if you aren't the head of their reporting line.

People who know things about management have a name for this phenomenon: leading from below.

What I've learned is that even if you're not at the top of an organizational chart, you have more influence that you might believe. I've been trying to get better at leading from below for a while, and I've learned a couple of things.

1. Be amazing at your job, but don't get caught up in who might be watching.

The first part of this seems much easier than the second, right? I get it. I've been there. It's easy to get caught up in wondering whether people notice the work that you do. I think it's especially easy when you're working in a behind-the-scenes role or when you see others around you receiving accolades for the work they're doing.

Here's the thing, though: people notice. They may not always tell you what a great job you're doing or give you the accolades you believe you're owed. But they notice. The flip side of that is true, too, by the way. People notice where you're not bringing your A-Game. Maybe not right away, but they do.

You earn credibility by meeting deadlines. You earn credibility by having more solutions than excuses. You earn credibility by being the kind of person you'd want to have as a colleague.

And that credibility leads to new opportunities and, yes, greater influence.

2. Volunteer.

Volunteering to serve on committees gives you the opportunity to build your leadership toolbox. These opportunities are often lower stakes than some of the leadership work your administrators are doing. But they serve as more than just a line item on your CV--they are experiences you can point to where you organized a group or implemented a solution.

You get bonus points if the volunteer work you do is something other people might decide is too challenging or too boring.

3. Partner with people who have similar goals and complementary skills set.

There are probably a few people in your organization who are passionate about the same things that you are. Maybe you're all interested in outreach and marketing. Or maybe you're all interested in how library users find things in the catalog. Finding those people with similar interests to yours is the first step. The second step is finding someone in that group whose skill set complements your. They're outgoing where you're reserved. Or they're a details person where you favor the big picture. However you complement one another, work together to accomplish your shared goals. It's often easier to share the burden between two people. And it's good to have someone who can step into a situation when you know you aren't the best person to tackle the job.

If you want to learn more about leading from below, I highly recommend Shirley K. Baker's article entitled "Leading from below; or, risking getting fired" from the Fall 1995 issue of Library Administration & Management. It's from 1995, but it's as true today as it was then. Here's a citation from ERIC for it, but you may have to hunt down a paper copy from the stacks of your library.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Cher Index of Personal Wellbeing

I do have some library things to say and I am working on them, but I have been dealing with some personal stuff this week and can't muster the proper Constructive Summer vibe for you today, so I am taking an audience request (okay, it's a co-blogger request from Erin).

As I mentioned, I use the Cher Index of Personal Well-being to assess my personal well-being. I developed this system quite a while ago and have found it to be useful.  See, I found that there were some external indicators of how I was feeling that I could more easily measure than I was able to assess my current physical, emotional and psychological state directly. Namely: how much Cher have I just been listening to?

You might not have the same tell, but I bet you have a similar tell. Think back on the worst day you had last month. When you were skipping every track, what did you land on? when you threw your hands up, what show did you put on, what book of poetry did you pull out? Something you do when you're not quite right.

At the time, I carried about seven tracks of Cher on my personal listening device, so ranks 1 through 7 were a simple measure of how many of those tracks I had listened to during the previous measurable period of time. One or two or three, you come across a track in the shuffle or you just want to hear a track, but when you start to seek out four or five tracks, things are getting intense. If you shuffle Cher? We're talking something is UP.

I sincerely believe that pain scales have to be on a log scale because it doesn't make sense if they are not. So, when we get up towards ten, we have to pull out some stops to get something to address the level of stress. I looked to videos, and marked 8 with a video of gypsies, tramps and thieves that I had enjoyed on several occasions.

Then a weird thing happened, the Cher Index of Personal Well-being outgrew Cher! Because nine, nine was a video of Dolly Parton's Nine To Five. Let me tell you, when you need Nine To Five, you really need it. And I DARE you to watch this and not be cheered. What is even happening in this video?

10 is something like that video only much more so. So much so that I am embarrassed about what it is. Let's hope we never get to ten.

The great part about the Cher Index of Personal Well-being is that it measures personal well-being while also improving personal well-being.

Well there you go, a peak inside my brain.

How do you keep track of your stress and cope with it?

Keep Rockin'

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

And they're playing it again

It has to start somewhere.
It has to start sometime.
What better place than here?
What better time than now?
--Guerilla Radio, Rage Against the Machine

At some point during my time at my first official Librarian-ing job after finishing my MLS program, I typed those lyrics and put them on the bulletin board next to my computer. I typed them in a particularly large font and put them in a place where I would always see them. I even made a copy of them for one of my colleagues who still has them, several years later.

It was important for me to see those lyrics because they held me accountable. Some days I felt too busy to think about how I could make my Library a more user-centered place. Other days I felt too apathetic to even consider how I could swim against the tide of "this is how we've always done it." But those lyrics kept me focused on why I was there and on what I wanted to accomplish. That change you want to see, they said to me, it has to start with you. So what are you waiting for?

For me, those song lyrics have been a mantra. They bring me back to center when my mind wanders and help me to clear out the mental fog that comes with being up to my elbows in meetings and reports and things that need to be done. They make space for me to remember why I choose everyday to work in Librarianship.

I haven't posted those lyrics yet on the bulletin board at my desk at my not-quite-so-new job and I can feel their absence. Nothing beats having that reminder in your face all the time.

So my advice is this: Find that thing that centers you, helps you clear the fog, and helps you make a space to remember what's important. Song lyrics are important to me, but maybe something else works better for you: a poem, a quote, a picture, or some feedback from a library user or colleague. Whatever it is for you, put it in a place where you can see it every day. And let it hold you accountable when you attention, and intentions, begin to wander.

Stay positive,

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Jams! (1/16/2015)

Friday Jams!

The Spring Semester is started and everything is right with the world! I'm getting things done, agreeing to do other things, being super awesome like you do. Let us jam to a highly productive jam:

There is also a short film version of this video, which I find kind of disturbing because I find a lot of things kind of disturbing. But I trust you can find that on your own if you like.

Let's keep on with the theme of highly productive jams, shall we? Highly productive jams, now 100% with more Tegan and Sara.

From The Outside

I've been involved in a few space planning projects now, and it always seems that we are surprised at how we look when we see ourselves reflected back through the eyes of outsiders we've invited. Architects and other outside consultants can offer a view that we can't get from our own entrenched positions and that is a good thing.

Outsiders only know what you tell them and what they can see. When you see yourself through their eyes, you can get a good look at the foundational narratives of your organization: the stories you tell yourselves. These can be good or bad, but they are foundational in a way that makes them hard to uncover during day to day business. When what they see and what they hear don't align, that gets drawn out in discussions and narratives. You find yourself being asked to clarify why things that conflict with your narratives exist.

Outsiders don't have a vested interest in the organization. They can't retaliate directly against anyone, and can anonymize issues. If you let folks talk directly to the architects, consultants, etc, either individually or in peer groups, you can get feedback that might never get spoken aloud in other contexts.

A colleague of mine recently invited an "equity consultant" to come and work with their department. The consultant held a day of open forums for undergraduates, graduates, untenured tenure track faculty, adjunct faculty, women, faculty of color. The forums were open to those groups specifically, and afterwards he reported back what he had heard to the administrators and leaders in the department. The result was a deconstruction of the narrative of "we've got a few issues but we're doing okay" based on hearing comments that people only felt comfortable making in a safe space.

Even when a consultant isn't hired specifically to address issues like "are we a truly equitable workplace" or "what are our foundational narratives," when you pay attention to the organizational dynamics that go on when an outsider is involved (especially for an extended period like with an architect), you can learn a lot about your organization.  And, most importantly, you can use that information to start to make changes to be a better organization.

 Keep Rockin'

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Innovation and being brave

In an attempt to make this blog accessible to all types of Libraryland people, I rarely dive deep in the minutiae of cataloging. But I have something I want to say about the Future Of Cataloging.

cue the ominous music

Even if cataloging is not your jam, I think there's something in here for you about the bravery that innovation requires.

There is quite a buzz online this morning as word reached Twitter that the Oslo Public Library implemented RDF linked data as its "core metadata format." The fine print on this decision is that RDF linked data will replace MARC for description of traditional library resources. This blog post from June 2014 lays out some of the reasoning behind the change, including the fact that describing both physical and digital resources using RDF linked data provides continuity in description between physical and digital collections.

After reading what other people had to say about this decision, I tweeted:
As with the jump from using AACR2 as a descriptive standard to using RDA, there will come a point where more libraries will move from using MARC as an encoding standard to using whatever replaces it. It's already starting to happen at the bleeding edges with the development of use cases for BIBFRAME  and with the momentum that LibHub seems to be generating.

And while the future that's being built is exciting, it also feels a little bit scary sometimes.

I think that in some bleeding edge folks, the reaction to hearing people admit to being a little afraid of the post-MARC future is to call catalogers change averse. But I don't think that the fear is a symptom of change aversion. Not entirely, anyway. For many catalogers, MARC is the only encoding standard we've ever know. And even though we can rationally agree that MARC is antiquated and needs to be replaced, considering the post-MARC future means learning new skills and creating new workflows. I don't think it's wrong to feel afraid of letting go of something old, even as we embrace something new--in cataloging or any other area of librarianship.

I am here to tell you that it's okay to be scared, as long as you don't let that fear keep you rooted in the past instead of embracing the future.

Choosing to innovate means choosing to be brave. For catalogers, it means learning more about the post-MARC world and finding your voice in conversations you don't entirely understand. It means learning to code so that catalogers can speak the same language as the people who design the systems and services that use the metadata we create.

Being innovative means sitting with our discomfort and moving forward, not in spite of it but with it.

Stay positive,

Friday, January 9, 2015

Friday jams (01/09/2015)

Happy Friday!

For many of us, this was our first full week back at work in quite a while. Take a moment to celebrate that you not only endured it, but made it awesome.

Hands down, the best album I heard in 2014 was Against Me!'s Transgender Dysphoria Blues. I have appreciated how the band has evolved to a more...polished sound without losing the raw edge that makes them great. If you haven't heard it, you absolutely should.

This song, the title track, is a wee bit NSFW--so wear some headphones, turn up the sound, and rock out.


You may have noticed that Erin listens to new music whereas I dwell in the past. I'm fine with this. For instance, Little Feat never gets old. So:

Here's a song about a certain kind of medicine.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Five Books

I had a whole bunch of things happen this morning before I could even finish my coffee, so I'm going to take a break and think about five books that have shaped my life. Foundational texts, if you will. This is where I am coming from.

1) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. I read this book in my first semester of college and several times again. Kuhn's work is of the sort that gets diluted and misapplied constantly, which itself is a topic of conversation. The work itself is seminal and I believe that it needs to be read and understood if we are to live in the world we live in today.  I think this book probably shaped me in ways I don't even realize and I am glad for it. I am glad I was forced to read this book before I encountered the things it influenced.

2) Murdering McKinley by Eric Rauchway. This 2004 book takes my favorite period of American history and uses it to ask the most important questions about contemporary societies. I will buy you a copy you must read it. This book does an excellent job at history, and at posing challenging and prescient questions for today. I would use it for both of those things and as an model for why history and how history and what is the point of doing history. I love this book very deeply and I am serious I will buy you a copy please read it.

3) Technopoly by Neil Postman. Also, if you like, The End of Education. Really you can just put all of Postman in here. The books are so small, so concise. I adore them for that alone. I think that I was also introduced to these in college as well. The questions that Postman raises in Technopoly are so essential in society broadly, but also specific to libraries. This is a book we should all read again.

4) An Essay On Typography by Eric Gill. This was given to me as a gift, and is another small and wonderful book. Written in 1931, it addresses itself to typography (which, come on, you know you love it) but also to the issue at hand in the field at the time: industrialization and craftsmanship. Philosophical discussion is woven between practical advice about the page. I would recommend this in the same breath as The Shape of Content by Ben Shahn and What The Twilight Says by Derek Walcott, which are similarly delightful in their mixture of criticism, philosophy, and advice, and offer a more diverse background of philosophy. I adore all of those books. Beautiful sentences in there.

5) ....... I'm all out.

I guess that's technically six books. I'm a little sad to see that there aren't any women there. I will take a look at my bookshelves when I get home and see if we can address that.

Well, what books shaped the way you look at the world? What would you have people read to help them understand you? I really want to know.

Keep Rockin',

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A pep talk

Happy New Year!

Hopefully you had a restful and joyous time away--however long it was. Maybe you had magical thinking about what you were going to accomplish during your time away. Hopefully you've been kind to yourself if you weren't able to do everything you wanted to do. Whatever you did (or didn't) get done over break, I hope you returned refreshed, renewed, and ready to Do Awesome Things in 2015.

So let's do it. Let's get started.

What's that one project you've been putting off because you were afraid of how it would turn out or how difficult it would be? What's that one issue you feel passionate it about but haven't stood up or spoken out? What's that one dream you have but haven't pursued because you were afraid of how much you would have to give up to realize it?

I find delight in a quote often attributed (probably incorrectly) to George Elliot:
It's never too late to be what you might have been.

Whatever it is you've been putting off, dig it out and dust it off. Maybe it doesn't fit who and where you are now, personally or professionally. If not, let it go--that's okay! But if it still fits and you still feel passionately about it, what's the first step to making it happen? Figure it out and do that.

I'm eleven weeks out from my first half-marathon in over a year. 2014 was kind of a whirlwind. I started the year over 800 miles away from where I ended it. I interviewed for, and started, a new job. And before I knew it, I was closing the books on a year where I hadn't taken very good care of myself as I tried to keep my head above water learning the ins-and-outs of a new library and a new town. I sprained my ankle and spent the majority of the Summer healing and when I started running again, I felt frustrated at how much slower I was. In short, 2014 was both really amazing and really hard. 

So. Eleven weeks.

I have a written plan--half chart and half calendar. I have plotted every run, ever cross-training day, every rest day from now until March 22nd. The way is clear and there is no excuse for me to fail or give up. I'm going to have to squeeze some things in--like that 6 mile run I'm supposed to do on the Sunday of ALA Midwinter. In the warm and fuzzy beginning of achieving our goals, we often overlook how much planning and hard work achieving our goals can be. So let's be excited about Doing Awesome Things, but let's be real about what we'll have to take on or give up to do those Awesome Things.

Are you with me? What can you accomplish in the next eleven weeks? Start today, and leave a note in the comments telling me what Awesome Thing you'll do in the next eleven weeks.

Let's do this.