Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday jams (01/29/16)

It's been an awesome week over here on the blog, so it's time to celebrate with some Friday jams.

2015 was a great year for music, and I'm cautiously optimistic about what 2016 has in store. Chairlift's new album came out last week and this single, Romeo, is really fun and catchy. It's okay if you dance a little in your chair.

Have I talked to you about Mary-Chapin Carpenter's album A Place in the World? It's from 1996 but I didn't have it until just a couple of years ago (which is odd to be honest, did you know the very first cassette I bought with my own money was Mary-Chapin Carpenter?) Anyway, I've been listening to it because it's a CD in my car that is not on my iTunes (which is also weird), and my iPod has not been in my car. ANYWAY, I absolutely adore this love song for grown-ups which allows for love and relationships are terrible, and yet... so please also enjoy. or not whatever.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

roll my life around the yard

This past week I had to put my truck in four wheel drive to get to my house. After the streets had been mostly cleared I thought about turning it off, but found myself glad I hadn't when the parking lot was treacherous. I don't know if or what or how you drive, but  driving your truck in 4wd is not at all the same as driving your same truck in 2wd.  4wd provides certain benefits that are undeniable, and you need it sometimes. But it isn't just shifting gears, you can't just switch back and forth on a whim. (although it much easier than the last truck I owned.) And there are things that you can't do the same, like making sharp turns. So every time you start driving you have to do an assessment of what is happening that day, what the weather is like here, what the weather is like where you're going, all kinds of things.

Driving around this week thinking about my driving experience got me thinking about the approaches we take to challenges in our workplaces. Different problems require different solutions and even different approaches. When we set our minds to our tasks, to the biggest challenges in front of us can set the tone. We might not be thinking about how that mindset effects how we approach other problems that we will run across. Like how I'm very happy to have my 4wd on when I'm going up the icy mountain, but much less happy about it when I'm in the grocery store parking lot.

What I found while driving that the single most important thing was to always remember that I was in 4wd. It changed the way I drove around town and the way that I drove when I really needed that 4wd. If I can be aware of the biggest projects I'm taking on and how they're determining the approaches I take on a daily basis I can be more aware of how to approach everyday problems. More importantly, I can be aware of problems, projects, and people that might not respond as well to those approaches and try better to adjust my actions to compensate.

Keep Rockin'

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Drop of the "I" and add of the "we"

I went to Boston for ALA Midwinter. It was nicer weather than any of us had the right to expect and I spoke on a panel about the #mashcat movement and the importance of building relationships between metadata creators and library technologists. I was lucky to be able to speak alongside Shana McDanold and Galen Charlton, whose thoughtful comments filled me with Imposter Syndrome about whether I belonged on the stage, too.

I was supposed to give an in-person lightening talk at the #mashcat unconference, but I ended up cutting my trip to Boston short. The lovely unconference coordinators were able to Skype me in so that I could speak--a special shoutout to Christina Harlow for being really gracious about making it all work.

In case you're interested, this is (more or less) what I said. I hope you like it. Or, at the very least, find a piece of it that resonates with you.

I've been following the conference tweets and the live stream, and it seems like there are a lot of really amazing conversations happening today. I hope you were serious when you were talking about creating a space for people to fail. The original title of my talk was "The only rule I know've got to be kind," which is a butchering of a line from a Kurt Vonnegut novel. But after hearing what was said at this morning's "Why #mashcat?" panel, I decided to tweak my talk. I guess the more accurate title at this point is "How #mashcat?"

Metadata creators and library technologists have big challenges ahead of us. We have to figure out how to live in a post-MARC world. We also have to figure out how to design systems and structures that reflect our user's lived experiences. And, I would argue, we have to learn to speak with a unified voice when talking with vendors. I'm sure you can think of other big challenges that I haven't. The point is, we've got a lot of work to do.

I was nervous about proposing a talk on kindness, especially with all of the great technical talk. I wasn't sure that there was room for a conversation about feelings, but I would argue that soft skills are as important as technical skills when it comes to building our collective future. One of my favorite quotes is by Brene Brown, who is a professor of Social Work. In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she writes:
"Authenticity is a collection of choices we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen." 

I'd like to argue that we should build better relationships between library technologists and metadata creators through authentic connection. And, because every talk needs a hook, I'll give you three C's we can use: Connection, communication, and collaboration.

It's easy to organize the world by thinking about how we're different from other people. But that kind of thinking leads to organizational structures that create siloed thinking and barriers. Our daily tasks don't leave us much time to build relationships and competing interests within organizations can lead to an "us vs. them" mentality. But that mentality isn't helpful. You talked this morning about how certain terminology can be divisive: librarian vs. staff, cataloging vs. metadata. When we stop thinking of each other as people, we lose our connection to each other.

Instead of thinking about how metadata creators and library technologists are different, I would suggest that we identify areas of mutual concern. Those areas of mutual concern help us develop common goals and to start a conversation about what we're willing to give up to achieve those goals. For me, our areas of mutual concern are: the future, the user, and the vendor. But you might have different ideas and that's okay.

The easiest way to communicate is to be mindful of jargon. We all have places where we use acronyms or other shorthand to communicate about a concept. But, as you discussed this morning, acronym soup can be a barrier to participation. My suggestion is to drop the jargon in order to have more meaningful conversations. Don't assume that the metadata creator you're speaking with knows what you know or that the library technologists is conversant in MARC tags.

It can be easy to assume, too, that being clear and explaining things will insult someone's intelligence. They already know that, we think, and I don't want them to think that I think they're stupid. But chances are that the person you're speaking with doesn't know your shorthand and will be relieved that you've chosen to speak plainly about an issue or a concept so that they don't have to reveal their ignorance.

I would also suggest that library technologists and metadata creators establish regular communication. At my previous job, I worked at an academic library cataloging a private collection. At the same time, developers were working to build a website where digitized version of the cataloged material would live. I was able to work with the developers to ensure that we had the right amount and kind of metadata to do what we wanted to site to do. It was a really great experience and it taught me that metadata creators and library technologists can build better tools by working more closely together during the development process. So start informal conversations with people--ask what they're doing and how you can help.

I also want to acknowledge the fact that "just show up" and "don't wait to be invited" require a certain amount of fearlessness and vulnerability that not everyone has. So if you have a knot in your stomach when someone says that to you, it's okay. I do, too.

The first piece in collaboration is making sure that the right people are involved. When you begin collaborative projects, be mindful of who you've invited to participate. Do you have the people and the skills to be successful? If you don't, how will you recruit the people who have the skills that you're missing? In some cases, that might mean that a person who is often invited to participate in collaborative projects will have to step away to make room for someone new to participate. I encourage you to be the person who steps away, especially when the person you're making room for is a newer librarian or a person from a group that is traditionally underrepresented in librarianship. Give other people time to shine, and room to grow.

Next, be mindful of the amount (and kind) of work you're asking other people to do. Collaborations between metadata creators and library technologists should be 50/50. We shouldn't ask metadata creators to take on the work of understanding the skills that library technologists possess without also asking library technologists to meet us halfway. Metadata creators have acquired a lot of coding and technology skills in recent years, and I hope that our partners in library technology are willing to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us in collaboration.

And finally, be willing to share your skills. Identify what skills you would like to develop and who has those skills. The #mashcat community has been generous with its time and its talent, but you can also look to your colleagues at your home libraries to help you develop your skills. Skill building also requires that you be willing to teach. It's easy to make a long list of things you want to learn, and it's easy to think that you don't know enough to each someone what you know. But you're definitely an expert in something--you just have to be willing to teach someone else what you know.

A final word:
I have to end with a song lyric, because of course I do. It's my thing. Erin McKeown is my favorite musicians. She ends her song, "Histories," by asking: How do you make community? and answering Drop of the "I" and add of the "we." I think about this song lyric a lot when thinking about how library technologists and metadata creators can build better relationships.

As I said in the beginning of this talk, library technologists and metadata creators have a lot of big challenges to take on. And I think that when we work together, we can build a better future than any of us could build on our own.
Stay positive,

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

I am folded and unfolded and unfolding

Two librarians I greatly admire, Cecily and Kelly, are leading an effort to raise awareness about mental health issues in and around the LIS community. #lismetalhealth week, as it's being referred to on Twitter, is raising awareness in a variety of ways--most notably a Twitter chat. Cecily and Kelly have also invited LIS bloggers to discuss the week (and the issues it seeks to address) on their blogs.

I would encourage you to visit the hashtag on Twitter to read people's stories and the discussion surrounding those stories. I am really moved by the courage people have shown in telling their stories. Stigma around the topic of mental illness--especially in communities of color--is real. And the fact that people have shown courage by talking about a piece of themselves demonstrates that.

It's also worth thinking about that for as many stories as people have told, there are countless people reading the hashtag with stories they're not ready to tell yet. And that's okay, too. Not everyone has the freedom or the privilege to disclose. And even when they do, it's not something that everyone feels comfortable disclosing.

Being who you are in a world that seeks to other you is difficult and difficult things are exhausting. I know, because I struggle too. I have binge eating disorder. And while some people joke about eating their feelings, this is a real thing for me. I eat because there are a lot of feelings I don't want to feel and so I eat to numb them.  I want to be more open about my struggle, but I feel a lot of shame so I don't talk about it.

Whether you choose to tell your story during #lismentalhealth week or not, I want to say that I see you and that I think you are brave.

Love and light,

Monday, January 11, 2016

How do you make community? Drop of the "I" and of the "we"

Hello, friends of the Unified Library Scene!

If building stronger relationships between library technologists and metadata creators is something you're interested in or feel strongly about, there is an event happening this morning that you might be interested in following.

From 10:30-11:30 am Eastern, the ALCTS Forum will focus on the #mashcat community. It's a panel discussion featuring Galen Charlton, Shana McDanold, and me.

You can follow the conversation on Twitter using the #mashalcts hashtag. Feel free to submit questions or comments!

Regular blog content resumes tomorrow.

Stay positive,

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

So this is the new year (and I don't feel any different)

I think it's easy to get swept up in the romantic notion of the New Year. I'm guilty of it--the first page of the new calendar holds so much promise. We have the opportunity to be better people in the new year: kinder and smarter and more well-read than we were last year. 

I haven't made any resolutions for the new year. Numbers-related goals poke at that part of me that gets caught up in perfection and down on myself when I fall short. But I did set an intention for the year. In 2015, I spent a lot of the year wishing things (both big and small) in my life were different and it kept me from really being present some of the times when I probably should have been present. So, in 2016 I am striving to stop wishing away my life. I decided that every time I wish a situation is different, I need to do something to change it. Or if I can't change it, I need to find a way to accept the situation just as it is. 

So far, it's lead to me turning off the TV and going to bed earlier so I can read and cleaning off the kitchen table so I don't eat all of my meals on the couch in front of the TV. I am enjoying the challenge of flipping the script on my life, but I'm only five days into the year. I'm hopeful that this intention carries me through the year, even as I acknowledge how hard I imagine it will be. 

While I wanted to talk to you about my intention for 2016, I didn't want this blog post to be a doozy of a navel gazer. So I started thinking about what I hope librarianship will aspire to be in 2016 and came up with three hopes for the coming year.

1. I hope that librarians will continue to use online spaces to build community. 
2015 saw the rise of #critlib, the return of #mashcat, and the beginnings of #libleadgender on Twitter. And these online spaces are beginning to take root in physical form--#critlib hosted two unconferences in 2015 and #mashcat is having an unconference right after ALA Midwinter 2016 in Boston. These online spaces are important for bringing people together from very different places and very different backgrounds to have the hard conversations that we need to have to move librarianship forward from what it is to what it could be. 

2. I hope that libraries will do a better job of recruiting and retaining the next generation of library leaders.
In 2015, I wrote a lot about how I felt like librarianship wasn't doing a great job of making new librarians feel welcome. This post was particularly resonant with people, if the number of pageviews it got is to be taken as an indicator. We need to do a better job of making newer librarians feel welcome and free to express themselves. We need to do a better job of making librarianship safer for margainalized people. We need to stop acting like our next generation of library leaders is a burden and start supporting them and helping them find their voice.

3. I hope that our blog will become a platform for people to tell their stories.
Rachel and I have worked hard to develop the Blog's voice over the past year and some change. And we're lucky that you (yes, you!) read what we write. But what would it be like if sometimes we gave the microphone to someone who has a great story to tell, but no platform to tell it? What would it be like if we invited you to share your stories, your worries, your complaints, and your dreams? Maybe we'll find out this year!

What is your intention for the year--either personally or professionally? Who do you want to be when December rolls around that you aren't right now? Drop me a line in the comments!

Stay positive,