Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Not a question of if, but a question of when

Back in the fall, I wrote about how ALA could rebuild trust with its membership after the Great Press Release Debacle of Aught Sixteen. In that post I laid out a three-point plan for how I believed that the association could restore the relationship with its members. There is one point that I want to use as a framework for this post:
First, I think it is incumbent upon Association-level leadership to restore the relationship between the Association and its members by centering the voices and taking seriously the concerns the people among its membership who will be most vulnerable in the coming years.
Much of the conversation around the conflict within the Association membership seemed to center around conflating personal opinions with professional ethics. And the thing I was most disappointed about at the ALA Town Hall was that the first speaker read this part of the ALA Code of Ethics, "we distinguish between our personal convictions and our professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources." I could find no other way to interpret that action than as a way to silence dissent from those who wanted ALA to stand up more forcefully for the values it holds at its core and more forcefully against an administration who seems to be poised to dismantle everything our core values stand for.

I was glad to see ALA come out in opposition of recent policies enacted by the new Administration to silence, intimidate, and ban. Even more so, I was glad to see the Association say, "we encourage our members to continue to speak out and show their support for and work on behalf of our core values, in their communities as well as with their local, state, and national elected and appointed officials." Given the ways in which its membership had been holding the Association responsible, the statement was the first thing that made me believe that the Association heard what its members were saying. And while this is the beginning of a conversation and not the end, it does seem to be a promising beginning.

Let us be absolutely clear in this moment: our marginalized colleagues and user community members are at actual, literal risk right now.

And given that almost 90% of librarianship is white, those of us in positions of privilege have a decision to make. Will we stand up for our colleagues and community members as the tactics used to silence and oppress them grow more bold? Or will we stand idly by behind the "professional duties" of the clause of the ALA Code of Ethics while the rights and lives of our colleagues and community members are destroyed?

As the co-author of this blog, I get to make choices about what kind of content ends up here--the issues that get addressed and the voices that get amplified. The Unified Library Scene will always be about bringing together people from disparate groups within librarianship to build a better future for our users, and right now that means standing alongside our marginalized colleagues and user community members, not just in words but in deeds. I invite you to join me in listening to the voices of our marginalized colleagues and community members and in interrogating how we can each better use our voices, our time, our talents, and our money to support those around us who need us to show up.

Stay positive,

Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday jams! (01/27/17)

During ALA Midwinter, I saw Run the Jewels play a hometown show (Killer Mike is from Atlanta) and it was really great. There's new music out today, but I'm going to share a track from RTJ3.

New music? Do you know what happened? Guess. No, wrong. What happened was that I had heard about and heard new music before Erin. I KNOW! It's magical, this new music, because it comes from a certified, Prince Rogers Nelson level genius. HOW DOES SHE DO IT. MISSY ELLIOTT.

Wait, Don't go. Don't stop being excited yet. Watch this:

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Pretty soon now you're going to get older

The dust is finally settling on ALA Midwinter 2017 and I left Atlanta on Tuesday feeling like this conference was different than other ones. I know that some of it had to do with the ways in which the world changed around us during the conference, but the shift in my feelings wasn't only driven by external forces.

As I've moved into my mid-career years, I care more about ALA-level governance. In some ways, I think this deepened interest stems from my volunteer work within ALCTS. But I also think it comes from the recognition that at both the macro-level and micro-level, the Association reflects the values of the member volunteers who act as its leadership. Beginning in November, there has been a lot of chatter about whether and how ALA represents the values of its members. And while there are some people among its leaders who are paid staffers, many people in positions of power are members.

It would be foolish not to acknowledge a significant number of systems and structures that are meant to further white supremacy and oppress marginalized communities within ALA. At two different times, in two public venues, a black woman was either not given the opportunity to speak or was cut off when she was speaking. During Council II, ALA Council resolved to continue to have the MLS as a required qualification for the ALA Executive Director position. And while ALA Council resolved at Council II to protect caregiver and parent volunteers from punishment if those duties kept them from attending in-person ALA commitments, there is still no protection for people who are unable to attend for other reasons--financial or otherwise.

I have made it a priority to attend at least a little bit of ALA Council meetings at ever ALA Midwinter and Annual conference I attend. But this time I devoted significantly more time to attending these events. I attended both ALA Council I and II and felt like I got a good sense of how these meetings function. I also saw the ways in which ALA Council is (and isn't) a representative body. Many of the same councilors got up to speak at every opportunity, and many of the councilors seemed...disengaged from the process entirely. While the resolution on the MLS requirement for the ALA Executive Director position had a good bit of discussion, I wished that there had been lively conversation around every topic. I didn't attend Council III, so I can't speak to what happened there. I also didn't attend any of the Council Forums, so maybe discussion and discourse happens there instead of in the actual Council sessions? I also wondered to what extent politic-ing happens around Council resolutions. Do councilors form voting blocks?

I also attended the ALA Presidential Candidates' Forum. It was interesting to hear three candidates give platforms that both overlap and diverge wildly. I left that event not feeling sure about who I think should lead our association, and feeling like I have much more work to do before I make that decision. It was valuable to hear not only the prepared statements that the candidates made, but also to hear questions from the audience about the things that mattered to them. I look forward to reading more about and from the candidates in the weeks between now and the ALA election.

Finally, I attended the ALA Town Hall which gave members an opportunity to state their frustrations, hopes, and dreams for the association. As I stood at the microphone to make a comment, I recognized how brave you have to be to stand in an enormous room and speak your truth in front of a room of people who don't all share your views. Many, many people had much more impassioned and eloquent things to say than I did. But I felt an obligation to state publicly that I am holding ALA leadership at all levels accountable for the ways in which their actions support (or don't support) our association's emerging commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion.

My sense from all of these experiences is that if we truly want our Association to reflect our values, we have to find candidates for ALA-level leadership positions who are willing to advance those values and them hold them accountable for the work they do (and don't do) on our behalf. I think this means fielding and voting for candidates whose values align with our own and then holding them accountable by attending Council meetings and publicizing what happens there. I livetweeted council, as did many other people in the room, in the hopes of boosting a signal about what is emerging as important work of the Association.

I keep tweeting about this, but it's worth saying again: Association governance work is boring, but it's also valuable. There are a million other things you could be doing other than reading the ALA Council listserv and attending Council meetings and forums at conference. But if we want ALA to reflect our values in an increasingly divisive and challenging world, we need to do this work. I don't think that the change that people want to happen within ALA is impossible. But I do think it requires being intentional. I'll be watching, reading, listening, and voting. If you're an ALA member, I invite you to join me.

Stay positive,

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Heart that Hurts is a Heart that Works

I am on my way to the Midwinter meeting of the American Library Association. There will be hundreds of librarians, vendors, and others attending the meeting for all kinds of reasons. I'm excited to learn things, see people, do the business of my institution, do the business of the association.

This meeting coincides with inauguration day, and that adds a thick, complex layer to the happenings. We'll be in Atlanta, a beautiful, diverse, and vibrant city, and I am sure that we won't be isolated from the mood of the city. And we will be bringing our own thoughts and feelings about the day with us.

I want to share this for all of us attending sessions, meetings, the vendor floor, and for everyone else as well:

Grief teaches you a lot of things. Grief has been one of the best, wisest, and most devoted teachers in my life. I am grateful for my grief, for it's lessons and it's companionship. I want to try to give you a lesson that grief has given me. An important lesson that took a long time to learn. A hard lesson. A lesson for these times.

This feeling doesn't go away. You can't stay here. 

This feeling will be with you, but it is time for you to pack your things and go. There is work to do. A lot of work to do. To prepare for the days to come. The feeling will be with you then, too. You'll learn to pack it neatly alongside your tools and clothes. To give it a look now and again and get back to work. But the time is over for trying to hold it and know it and make it go away.

You've had a time, to start. 
There will be times along the way. 
But we need to go. 
It's too late already.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Will it be better when we get there?

Earlier this week, Erin wrote about how to engage yourself with the doings of ALA at Midwinter.  I'd like to add to that list of possible happenings with some other recommendations.

Take advantage of career services. The ALA JobLIST Placement & Career Development Center offers a range of services at ALA conferences. Most notable to me is the photography service. If you have twenty dollars, it is worth twenty dollars to get or update your professional photograph. What are you gonna use when you win the Nobel Peace Prize? When you're named the Most Essential Person on Earth? Gotta get a nice photo. There is excellent networking opportunities when you're standing in line. The PCDC also offers a resume review service, coaching, mentoring, and some conference sessions. Check out the link above to see if there is anything that strikes your fancy. While you're at it, get up the nerve to ask for what you want. If you run into someone that you want to talk to about career development in the hall, go ahead and ask them if they'd be willing to chat with you longer. They may not be able or willing to, but you can't get something you don't ask for.

Check out some social events. In the scheduler, choose "Social Event" as meeting type and Submit. You don't have to be engaged with the groups to go to their socials and start to make some connections with like-minded folks.

If you can't stand not knowing, the presidential inauguration will be livestreamed on Friday in GWCC B403. I hope they've got plenty of outlets to fuel your tweets.

Throughout the conference there is a track of events you can find under the Symposium on the Future of Libraries. Friends and heroes of the blog are presenting as part of the Symposium, so check out all those offerings.

OITP is ALA's Office of Information Technology Policy. While we have opportunities for individual positions and individual actions, OITP is setting the organizational (professional?) party line on policy. OITP has a number of open meetings which you can find in the scheduler by searching "OITP." They're working on copyright, e-rate, digital content, technology literacy, and more. They also have a number of sessions you may be interested in.

Diversity, Inclusion, Activism:
Look these sessions up on the scheduler for more information, I don't want to bore you too much.

Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services (ODLOS) Town Hall Meeting 
Friday, January 20 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM GWCC B203 

Inclusive Practices at Your Library: Creating a Welcoming Environment for Your Patrons with Disabilities
Saturday, January 21 8:00 AM - 11:00 AM GWCC B313

Rescheduled: WO Breakout Session - Library Professionals Lead: Influencing the agenda of the 45th President and the 115th Congress
Saturday, January 21 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM GWCC A302
From the program: Facilitated by ALA Past President Courtney Young, a panel of experts will share ALA's strategy on policy priorities and plans for the first 100 days of the new administration as well as explore how library advocates can engage with elected officials and their staff to impact the policy decisions of the new administration and Congress. The session will include an opportunity for panelists to field questions from attendees.

Coalition & Resource Sharing: Using the June is GLBT Book Month campaign to build advocacy and relationships.
Saturday, January 21 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM GWCC B406

Inclusive Programming: The Power of Accessible Board Games
Saturday, January 21 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM GWCC A304

“Documenting the Impact of Diversity Recruitment and Retention Programs” Focus Group
Saturday, January 21 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM Marriott, A708

LITA Diversity and Inclusion Committee - Kitchen Table Conversation
Saturday, January 21 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM GWCC B316 

Supporting Diversity and Inclusion in the Current Social Climate: Why, How, and What Happens When ...
Saturday, January 21 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM GWCC, B405 

Racial Justice at Your Library hosted by Libraries4BlackLives 
Monday, January 23 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM GWCC B405


Competencies and Education for a Career in Cataloging (ALCTS CaMMS)
Friday, January 20 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM GWCC B215
The CaMMS program is focused on cataloging and metadata internship or fellowship experiences.

LLAMA Leadership Development Seminar
Sunday, January 22 8:30 AM - 10:00 AM GWCC B207
Maureen Sullivan is the presenter of this seminar. She is fantastic and comes highly personally recommended by me, @rachelmfleming.

An Archivist, Librarian and Museum Professional Walk into a Conference ...
Sunday, January 22 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM GWCC B405
Tell me more about these collaborative efforts and how to bring them to my library.

How People Fit Information and Libraries into their Lives
Monday, January 23 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM GWCC B407
Lee Rainie from the Pew Research Center will review recent research. Pew's research sets the national conversation, and it behooves us to be able to integrate it into our stories, challenge it, complicate it, and just get in there.

Libraries: A Powerful Platform for Change
Sunday, January 22 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM GWCC, B407
From the program: The New York Library Association's Sustainability Initiative is off to a strong start, helping libraries of all types understand their role as catalyst and convener to create sustainable, resilient and regenerative communities.

Update on Value of Academic Libraries Initiative
Sunday, January 22 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM GWCC, B407
If you're in academic libraries you know how important this is.

Unified Library Scene

Oh, did we mention that we're going to be there? Look don't be shy, say hello, let us know. We care about you and would definitely say hello back to you.

Keep Rockin'

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

No shelter, if you're looking for shade

Back in November, I wrote about what ALA could do to repair the damaged relationship with its membership and I want to follow-up on this conversation as we move toward ALA's Midwinter Meeting.

If you're ALA Midwinter-bound, I want to encourage you to attend as many of the ALA Council events as your schedule allows. ALA Council always has a gallery for members who wish to attend. And while you can't speak, you can listen to the types of things being discussed at ALA Council and get a sense of who ALA's Councilors are. Since ALA Council fora are also public, I'd encourage you to put those on your calendar as well.

Saturday, Jan. 21st:
8:30-10 pm
ALA Council Forum I
OMNI, Grand Ballroom C

Sunday, Jan. 22nd
8:30-10:30 am
ALA Council I
GWCC, Thomas Murphy Ballroom 3-4

8:30-10 pm
ALA Council Forum II
OMNI, Grand Ballroom C

Monday, Jan. 23rd:
ALA Council II
GWCC, Thomas Murphy Ballroom 3-4

8:30-10 pm
ALA Council Forum III
OMNI, Grand Ballroom C

Tuesday, Jan. 24th:
ALA Council III
GWCC, Thomas Murphy Ballroom 3-4

It might also be relevant to your interests to attend the candidates forums for both ALA Executive Board and ALA President.

Saturday, Jan. 21st:
5-6 pm
ALA Presidential Candidates' Forum
GWCC, Thomas Murphy Ballroom 3-4

Monday, Jan. 23rd:
12:15-1:15 pm
ALA Executive Board Candidates' Forum
GWCC, Thomas Murphy Ballroom 3-4

Also, ALA holds kitchen table conversations for its members to express ideas and give feedback. Per the ALA scheduler, the focus of this years' conversations will be accessibility for participants in ALA events with physical, mobility, visual, auditory, or cognitive disabilities.

Sunday, Jan. 22nd:
1-2:30pm and 3-4:30 pm
GWCC, B317

Monday, Jan. 23rd:
10:30-Noon, 1-2:30pm, and 3-4:30 pm
GWCC, B317

Finally, the ALA Executive Board is sponsoring a Town Hall on Sunday, January 22nd after the agenda for ALA Council I. The purpose of the event, as stated in the event information is:
The ALA Executive Board invites ALA Council and the ALA membership to join a Town Hall style conversation immediately following the Council meeting I agenda. Many members have expressed their concerns about the effects of the recent election on the positions and advocacy efforts of the Association. Although it follows the first meeting of ALA's governing council, this is a separate forum intended for all interested conference attendees. Please join this professionally facilitated session to share your feedback, concerns, ideas, and aspirations for ALA. We want to hear from you!
It would be great if this meeting was packed with concerned ALA members who want to ensure that the future direction of the Association aligns with our stated values and ethics.

Look, I know that the infrastructure of ALA is boring and not as fun as attending cool sessions and hanging out with the friends that you only see twice a year. But attending meetings like this is a good way to gain awareness of what ALA governance is really working on and to get a good sense of who the people are that we've elected to represent us.

I'll be at as many of these events as I can, and I encourage those of you who are attending ALA Midwinter to make time in your schedule to be there as well.

Stay positive,

Monday, January 9, 2017

Rachel's 2016 Mix Tape

Well, it has been a while. Things have been things and they have been happening. I've collected my thoughts on 2016 into this mix tape of music. I don't apologize at all.

Side A: looking back

On a rough year:

On a personal matter:

On departures:

On living through this shit:

Side B: looking up

On what it is:

On what you are:

On how we do it:

On when it starts:

Friday, January 6, 2017

Friday jams (01/06/2017)

It's the first Friday of 2017, so it's time for the first jams of the new year. 2016 was really a great year for music and it seems like 2017 is going to give us some good music as well.

Run the Jewels dropped their third album, RTJ3, on Christmas Eve which allowed it to sneak onto my Best of 2016 list just under the wire. Enjoy a track from that album called "A report to your shareholders/Kill your masters."

Here it is, 2017. I mean, it doesn't make any difference here because, as Erin will tell you, I steadfastly refuse to be exposed to new music.

But it is a time of newness, and coldness, and the promise of the future.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

You've seen it all

Earlier in the week Jacob Berg, friend of the Unified Library Scene, made a point about SciHub as a phenomenon.
I chewed on this idea for a couple of days and yesterday I had a tweet storm that I ended up deciding needed to be a blog post.

The thing that I kept turning over in my mind is that libraries implement a lot of solutions and workflows meant to help their users that were created without actual user input. And while I applaud the impulse that librarians have to implement systems, structures, and tools to help library users, I do think that excluding them from the design, development, and testing phases is a little short-sighted. Especially because our best intentions lead us to crate things that require that we create research guides and tutorials in order for them to be useful to our end users.

I feel like this impulse to exclude the user from the design, development, and testing phases of a library resource or service is a holdover from the time when librarians were both literal and figurative gatekeepers within the library. For many years, we've stood at reference desks and in classrooms as the sage on the stage, teaching people how to access the information that we have acquired and described. And while this was probably never a good idea, it definitely isn't how people interact with information anymore. Regardless of how you feel about the document, one of the things that ACRL's Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education really crystallized for me is that information comes from many places at this point in time--not just the library--and an information literate person knows how to make the most of information in whatever place they find it.

So if being a useful library isn't about being a storehouse full of information kept safe by a gatekeeper, it seems like we should invite our library's users to become co-creators of the systems, structures, and tools meant for their benefit. To do that, though, we have to understand--really understand--what our users need and want. And in order to understand what our users need and want from us, we have to listen to them. And I don't just mean conducting an annual State of the Library survey. Yes, those surveys are good for getting a broad picture of what your user community things you're doing well or doing poorly. But you're wasting your time if you don't use that information as a jumping off point to gather additional, more targeted information.

I think you also have to engage your user communities in more direct ways. Host focus groups with your user communities. Show up at meetings in your community and get to know their actual concerns. Hire an anthropologist to teach you how to conduct effective observational studies to understand the habits of your user communities. And as you engage your user communities, listen more than you talk.

And, yes. When you listen to your user communities they're going to hurt your feelings by telling you about how your tools and processes are hard to use. They're going to tell you that you aren't relevant to their life and you don't meet their needs. You know what? Listen to that feedback and sit with your discomfort, but don't take it personally. Hear what people are telling you about what they actually want, what they actually need.

And yes. When you listen to your user communities, you're going to have the urge to tell teach them something that it would easier to use a particular service or tool. You're going to want to say, 'using [x] would be easier if you only knew [y].' I get it. You want to make things easier for them. But resist this urge, because your user communities aren't broken. What they're telling you is that if you have to tell them [y] in order to effectively use [x], then it isn't a good solution.

True engagement with user communities is hard. But creating structures, systems, and services intended for their use without their input is a waste of everyone's time and resources.

Stay positive,

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

There'd be no distance that could hold us back

I really appreciated this recent post for ACRLog by Michelle and Maura about vulnerability and leadership. This post felt especially resonant because I spent most of 2016 feeling like I was treading water in both my personal and professional lives.

First it was because I had over-committed myself at the end of 2015 and had things I needed to see through. Then it was because a really high stakes work project coincided with my studying for, and taking, the GRE. Then it was because on the day I took the GRE, I found out my mom has cancer.

The problem with feeling like you're treading water all the time is that you end up letting things you really care about slide because you don't have the emotional energy to do much more than the bare minimum. I basically didn't run at all in 2016. I didn't blog regularly. I gave up on reading anything other than what was assigned as part of the online book club I'm in. I had a hard time thinking about the strategic direction I wanted to take with the processes and people I manage because I was struggling to stay on top of the day-to-day things that needed to happen to keep things running.

I needed the time off that the Holiday Break provided. I needed to go away for a while and not think about anything other than the things right in front of me, and I needed to choose the ways in which I wanted 2017 to be different and the things that I wanted to spend my time and energy on in the coming year.

On New Year's Eve, a lot of my friends were sharing this tweet from John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats.

And that felt like a fitting way to let go of all of the ways in which 2016 left me feelings burned out. So on New Year's Eve, I paused and thanked 2016 for all of the things it had given me and all of the things it took from me. And then I started a Google Drive folder called "Get Your Shit Together 2k17."

So it's 2017 and that work project is looming less largely over all of us, but we still have a lot of loose ends to tie up. And I still have some commitments, but I've mostly let go of the voluntary commitments that I don't feel totally invested in. I'm still waiting to find out if I got accepted to the PhD program I applied to, and probably will be until sometime in the spring. And my mom still has cancer, but she's got really great doctors who are working very hard to provide her with the best care.

And I decided that in 2017, I want to spend more time thinking about process--the how and the why of a project or task instead of just the results. And as I try to focus on staying grounded and present, I find myself saying "be where you are right now."

I guess this is as much a State of the Blog address as anything else. Or maybe a State of the Blogger address? Anyway, I really appreciate those of you who hung around the Unified Library Scene in 2016 because you found something of value here--an idea or a story that resonated with you and who you are or want to become. I hope that you continue to find something of value here again this year.

We couldn't have even done this if it wasn't for you.

Stay positive,