Thursday, January 11, 2018

Forget About Professional Development (For Now), by Sally Turbitt

Two words: Professional development. Talk of professional development starts in library school, with LIS students encouraged to volunteer at conferences, attend local events and generally “get involved” to accrue professional development points or hours. Maybe your workplace gives you opportunities to attend events on the proviso you come back to work and share your learnings. Or perhaps, like me, you realise that professional development activities are a way to learn and meet people in the industry, something that is really useful if you’re a library ‘outsider’ (e.g. not working in libraries).

Where do you start? How do you find the right activities and opportunities for you? You’ve got to start by answering, “who?”

A wise person once said “know thyself” and yes, that’s what I’m talking about. We are all, as another wise person once said like an onion, and when you start to peel back your layers and know yourself better, you will be a better professional and it will be easier to find the right professional opportunities that suit you. Plus you might surprise yourself by taking bigger leaps and accepting challenges you would have run away from before.

Knowing yourself is hard and uncomfortable work, BUT, here’s the thing. If you’ve invested heavily like me (financially, personally, emotionally), in going to library school and carving out a new career for yourself, you want to get this right and be a great librarian, advocate for your community and co-worker. You want to be resilient and have the stamina and skills to stay employed right? Many of us work with a huge variety of people every day, and being a resilient and reflective librarian is a good thing! This is why I want to encourage you to peel back those layers and find yourself first.

I’m a deeply curious person, always exploring ways to understand myself and others and I like to use a variety of tools to do this. It did take me years to discover those tools and be brave enough to listen to what I discovered. Years ago, I read What Colour is Your Parachute?, took the Myers-Briggs test at a work conference, and went to a career counsellor. I tried to ignore everything I learned, but it didn’t work. Part of me was paying attention and each time I explored something new and uncovered a kernel of truth about myself, an onion layer fell away and I got closer to who I really am.. Acknowledging personal biases, privilege, weaknesses, and figuring out how to celebrate and make the most of your strengths are all challenging. It’s hard to acknowledge who you are and find ways to change and do better at living and working.

As an ENFP, I am always willing to find solutions, so here are some of my personal tools for digging deeper and being brave. At one point or another each of these has got me through a rough patch and opened up doors to understanding myself and other people.
  • Listen. TED talks, podcasts, online radio shows - there are so many ways to listen and learn. Don’t stick to just library related content, branch out and explore new topics! (An added bonus is that you’ll be absorbing good and bad storytelling - how many times have you heard how about important storytelling is for library advocacy and promotion?)
  • Explore personalities and preferences. Try 16 Personalities, The Four Tendencies or read What Colour is Your Parachute?. You don’t have to agree with all the results, but they will give you some insight that you can explore (or ignore, but really, I bet you find one useful nugget of truth).
  • Ask friends and family what they think. (Awkward yes, useful, YES). You’ll be surprised at what people see in you and it’s more insight for you to reflect upon. Remember that how you see yourself is completely different to how everyone else does.
  • Be really honest with yourself about things you could be better at, and then find ways to improve. Written communication not great? Offer to write a newsletter article at work or start a blog. Jump on Twitter and practice writing in short concise sound-bites. Write book reviews for your library or just your friends. Feel like your tech skills need a refresh? Find out if your organisation or local library has a subscription or ask a colleague you know has great tech skills to show you their tips and tricks.
  • Spend time getting to know the people you work with, and how your personality and behaviours fit (or don’t). Read up on teams and communication. Start a conversation with co-workers or ask your boss if there are any short training courses you can take to expand your knowledge of teamwork and strategic communication.
  • Seek professional help if you need to. Sometimes we need to dig further to find ourselves and a professional counsellor or therapist can help.

Most importantly, discover your “who” your way. Extrovert, introvert, ambivert - there’s a way to do this that will suit you. Just try to extend yourself a little from time to time, try something new, and you could surprise yourself.

So, new librarian, this probably seems like quite a lot of ‘work’. Well, it is. However, you don’t need to do it all right now! Take small, achievable steps, and be kind to yourself and choose topics and activities you enjoy. Spend ten minutes a day reading an article or blog post, ask a colleague to show you how to do something that seems easy to them. Send that email to five close friends asking them that difficult question. Think small, it all adds up.

Find your who and the rest will follow.

Sally is a librarian who doesn't work in a library. Instead she supports library and information professionals for ALIA and co-hosts a podcast about libraries, galleries, museums and archives. Talk to her on Twitter @sallyturbitt.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

On Still Not Knowing Everything

Since I just closed out my first six months of my not-so-new-anymore job, I figured it was time to revisit the idea of knowing that I don't know - something I wrote about almost exactly 5 years ago as I was about to start my first job as a library administrator. My mind was boggling at all that I had to learn, and the truth is that I hadn't even imagined half of all that there was to know.

This most recent job change was easier in some ways. I made a lot of mistakes as a new library director... mostly dealing with people issues. Learning that I couldn't think aloud anymore was hard. Learning to ask questions in a way that the staff understood it really was just curiosity with no subtext was even harder. Hardest of all was learning to look at the entire context of an issue before trying to come up with a response. So starting my second job as an administrator was smoother because of all my past missteps, but that prior learning hasn't actually made it easy.

Although I'd worked at a two year institution before, I've never worked at a public institution of higher education. Further, although we are relatively small at just under 6000 FTE, this is also the biggest school that has ever employed me. Another big change is the size of the staff - I have 17 people working for me. I have learned a lot a lot a lot, but I'm still adjusting to all of this. And there is still so much more to learn.

Here's a list of what I KNOW I need to do:
  • Experience all the ins and outs of our budget cycle;
  • Sit down with as many of the rest of the faculty as possible;
  • Live through the rest of our strategic planning process and experience its ramifications;
  • Understand all of my responsibilities as they play out through the school year;
  • Get to know all the nuanced (or not so nuanced) differences between working at a small liberal arts college and a small-ish community college.

And that's just the stuff I know that I need to learn. At least once a week I learn something that I had no idea I needed to know, like how we handle email when someone leaves the institution or who to contact when I want to reserve a room in one of our new buildings. We all know, in theory at least, that we never stop learning, but it's so very different to be living it every day of my life. I love it.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Just For Fun: Mayonnaise!

I'm going to go against the grain of typical blogs that share recipes. I'm going to give you my main recipe up front (based almost exactly on this one)!

1 cup extra light tasting olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg (size matters)
2-3 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Put everything into a container with a mouth wide enough for an immersion blender, but not much wider. You MUST use an immersion blender for this recipe. After everything is in the container, put the blender in, and turn it on high - holding it still - for 30 seconds. You'll be tempted to move it, but don't. After that, move it around and blend the rest of the oil in, for another 30 seconds. Et voilĂ : mayonnaise! There are other methods that call for letting the egg warm up to room temperature or pouring the oil in very slowly, but if you are like me and have no patience but still want homemade mayo, this is the recipe for you.

Now for the chatty bits! I told a couple of friends about making my own mayo now, and they demanded a taste test. With McDonald's french fries. Their idea, not mine, but it ended up working well. Anyway, I rose to the occasion and made four different versions (the one above and the others listed below), but there was no consensus on which was the best. I liked the spicy one the best, but both the original recipe (above) and the dill version got votes as well. We certainly had fun trying them, and I definitely had fun coming up with the different recipes.

Spicy: instead of lemon juice, I put 2 tbsp of original Cholula. You need an acid of some sort in mayo, and hot sauce is made with vinegar. When I tasted the Cholula mayo, though, it didn't have any kind of kick, so I added a tbsp of Frank's RedHot. If I make this again, I'll just go with 2 tbsp of Frank's.

Vinegary: instead of lemon juice, 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar. This was also recommended by the person who wrote the recipe I cited above. It's not good for everyday applications, because the vinegar taste comes through super strong, but it's fantastic with potatoes. It'd probably be amazing for potato salad.

Dill: instead of lemon juice, I put 2 tbsp of pickle juice, I also added a small amount of fresh dill - hard to explain how much, other than to tell you I pulled off a couple of inches from the top of the dill I bought. Didn't chop it up, either, since the stick blender did that for me.

Yes, this does use fresh, raw eggs. That means it won't last as long as long as store-bought, but it will last a couple of weeks past the expiration date on the eggs you buy. But I gotta say - it never lasts more than a week for me.

Good luck with this, and let me know how it goes!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

I Resolve...

Except, I'm not perfect. Really nobody is. I see life as a never-ending quest to better myself, so some of these things listed below have been goals of mine for a while. However, since I'm not completely immune to the culture of the country in which I live (we Americans do love to make resolutions), I thought I'd add a few things to my list. Sharing them with you is a way to hold myself accountable.

So, here we go...

  1. This is a constant goal of mine as a Buddhist, but I resolve a deeper commitment to practicing kindness and compassion. This doesn't mean I'm going to let people walk all over me, because part of this resolution is to be kind and compassionate with myself as well. Also, sometimes the kindest thing is to hold people responsible for their actions. If that means punching a Nazi, so be it. More likely it will voting for people who I believe will help heal this country. Kindness and compassion are, in a way, the wellspring for all my other resolutions.
  2. I'm going to spend more time reading professional literature. This will be difficult, as it means giving myself permission to close my office door so I can concentrate. I want to be available to the library faculty and staff, but we'll all benefit if I gain more knowledge and keep more abreast of what's happening in our field.
  3. Another thing I'm going to spend more time doing is playing with my cats. Yes, I do play with them every day, but sometimes it's only for 5 minutes. I always end up giggling if I can get Zephyr into the game (not always possible, especially when Viktor is going whole hog after the wiggly piece of flannel on a stick), and it's good for them. Letting myself do something just for the fun of it...? Will be good for me.
  4. Something that's been important to me for a while is cooking. I did The Whole 30 back in October and realized I'm sensitive to a whole bunch of foods that I'd been eating every day - lactose intolerance being the most ridiculous of them (ridiculous because how did I not realize it before?). Since then, I've not been 100% Whole 30, but I've been eating fairly paleo. I'm worried I'm going to fall into a rut with my eating, and get bored, so for the last few months I've been trying more new recipes, and will continue that into the new year.
  5. Finally, I just turned 45, so there's no denying I'm middle aged. I definitely need to sleep more.


How about you? Do you believe in New Year's Resolutions? If so, what did you resolve?

Thursday, December 21, 2017

To New Collections Librarians, by Lindsay Cronk


Felicitations- you have inherited a great fortune. It takes the form of books, journals, databases, films, music, and maybe a few umbrellas (yes, I mean literal umbrellas). That’s because a great collection provides what people need, and so whether your collection is big or small, established or infant, budget-intensive or built on donations, you are the inheritor of a great collection - even if you can’t see that yet. I urge you now and always to consider the splendor, eccentricity, and charm of your library’s collection. You may fall in love. I have done so many times. Being a collection development librarian is appreciating, improving, and attending to your magnificent inheritance.

I say “yours” and I mean it. While others will have pieces, and while your collection will be developed in service of your community, you will be the one who sees it holistically rather than in individual experience. This part of the work is a responsibility and a privilege. I say yours, but I also mean “theirs” and “ours,” because your collection is a generous thing, built for sharing, inspiring, and celebrating your community. This part of the work is a true joy.

I encourage you to ask your coworkers why there is an extensive collection of monographs on flora and fauna of the Southwest or Hungarian Festshriven [Editor’s Note: there was a very old book about domestic breeds of cattle in the first collection I ever managed. We never figured out why it was there in a small, liberal arts college library, but we all fell a little in love with it and kept it.]. There will always be an answer, though sometimes no one will remember it. In such cases assume the answer is that your predecessors were trying their best. The longer you are in it, the more familiar the collection will become, but it will never be less weird than it is on the first day, and it will be weird. Maybe you will be particularly lucky and it will be SUPER WEIRD. Explore your collection- your inheritance- and remain grateful for it. Because the collection is going to make demands of you.

There is maintenance, planning, management, and development. The collection is alive to need; and, as a result, the responsive collection can be at times unknowable. You will never get to focus on just an inventory or a weeding project. As you hone in on necessary maintenance, you will also be helping to grow the collection to meet the needs of your community and getting to know that community. It will be challenging to track what the collection was and what it is becoming, but you will try your best, and you will succeed. You will develop your rhythm of activities.

There is so much pride to take in your inheritance, which will move and inspire people who use your collection. They may produce scholarship or art or other cool things, and then you can collect what they make. Those people are also inheritors in their way- they share your inheritance and benefit from your stewardship. And sometimes, people will be annoyed to find that their something specific isn’t in there. You will receive angry emails, and you will not always meet expectations. The collection will be imperfect and serviceable. It is a great collection if you find that people are more often satisfied than they are not.

Because when you inherit a collection, you become more aware of the logistical and unseen connections between all the collections of the libraries of the world through the magic of ILL, collaborative print, OA projects, digital libraries, etc. You will learn the greater context of your collection, and discover that it is endless in terms of the access you can facilitate. It’s an incredible time to be a collection librarian, as your inheritance is made greater through collaboration and cooperation. The collection is not defined by the boundaries of your library, the limits of your space or even your budget.

This inheritance of yours, vibrant and expanding, demanding and impossible to know, it is yours only for a while. All around you are incredible materials- in some cases the life’s work people you may never meet, whose efforts are evident on every shelf on every subject guide on every list of databases. A collection is an incredible wealth, and you are the latest in a series of stewards. Your legacy will be forever intertwined with the work of unseen coworkers, past and future.

Consider this resonance when you find a moment, perhaps in those challenging moments as you grapple with budget decisions or at after a difficult meeting with stakeholders. The timbre, deep beauty, and span of the collection is its own meditation. In such moments, remember again that you have inherited a great fortune, and others will inherit it from you. Be grateful and be gracious, collections require both.

Lindsay Cronk is the Head of Collection Strategies, University of Rochester River Campus Libraries. This is the second time she’s written for LtaYL; the first was an interview. She tweets at @linds_bot.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

To Shush Or Not To Shush, Revisited: Or, The Revenge of the Shusher

I loved that idea, but haven't had a chance to revisit anything because stuff keeps coming up. However, in the lull between semesters and in between outrageous legislation, I decided to revisit the idea of whether or not shushing people in the library is a good idea.

I have to admit that my advice isn't terribly different, but I do have more specific advice to give than I did in my original post.

1. I try to gauge my reaction based on others. I'm hyper aware of noise around me, for whatever reason, and am especially hypersensitive to noise in the library. If something is bothering me, but nobody else seems fussed, I let it go. On the other hand, if I see annoyed expressions from students in the library, I go into action.

2. I work to make sure that people have different kinds of spaces in my library, if possible. Study rooms are ideal, but designating one part of the library for noise can also help keep things quiet. If all else fails, and the library is too small for those kinds of distinctions, making ear plugs available can help so much.

3. I keep the community served by my library and the time of semester/year in mind. Everything I'm writing here is down to the academic library thing. Like the fact that at the beginning of the semester, it is going to be loud. It just is. If it's during break, noise might be more noticeable but it's also less worrisome. During mid-terms and exams, though, when stress is running high...? I'm ruthless.

4. I try to be mindful of the shushing stereotype, but sometimes it can't be helped. Instead, I play into it for the humor of the situation. I remember telling a group of football players, at a previous job, "hey, don't make me be a stereotype and have to shush you." That worked for a while! Later that week I had to pull out the big guns - "don't make me tell your coach about this." Actually, humor is always a good method to get college students to be more considerate of other library patrons.

5. I don't take it personally when things get loud in the library. I mean, how can I take it personally when it's high stress making people act out? Or when a member of the staff laughs so loudly because they forgot for a second where they were? It's not meant as a personal attack, so I try to be kind and see it from the loud person's perspective.

The approach has worked for me for years now. I've even been thanked by students for reminding noisy people that it's exams and people are stressed. It's a careful balance of letting things roll off while still paying attention, but it has been worth it.

What about you? How do you approach noise in the library?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Interview Post: Raina Bloom


Raina Bloom

Current job?
Public Services Librarian, College Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

How long have you been in the field?
I started working in libraries in May of 2001, as a circulation clerk at a public library. I defended my Master’s thesis in December of 2007 and got my first librarian job in August of 2008, though that was the third library I had worked in. So it’s either 16.5 years, 10 years, or 9 years, depending on how you want to do the math.

How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?
I have a shared office off of a large study room. It’s not a cubicle situation - we each have our own areas and have set up the space to give ourselves room and a sense of semi-privacy. I’m currently sharing an office with four colleagues: three postgraduate residents and one permanent staff member (who is my closest colleague from a responsibility standpoint). There’s a lot of variation in our schedules, so it’s rare that all five of us are in the space. We have an office agreement concerning things like noise levels, lighting, and greener use of the printer, among other things. We also have good conversations and a “queer kid’s dorm room in the mid-90s” aesthetic. I love us.

How do you organize your days?
Because the staff where I work have such a diverse range of responsibilities that require us to spend a lot of time out of our offices and elsewhere on campus, we are very dedicated to our online calendars. Between calendaring and the app Things on my phone, I tend to be where I need to be, when I need to be, with what I need to be there.

What do you spend most of your time doing?
The answer to this question varies widely depending on what part of the year we’re in. College Library is an undergraduate library, so most of my job is teaching, no matter the context. We refer to ourselves as a teaching library, and we mean that in a very comprehensive sense. We teach on the desk, we teach in the classroom, and we teach each other in meetings. I’m also one of the two supervisors of our graduate student employees. If it’s summer or early fall, I’m spending a lot of time training our new employees, refreshing our returning employees, and making sure administrative details have been taken care of so everyone gets paid and can sign in to the tools that they need to help our patrons. I estimate that I spend about half of my time teaching in one way or another - on our busy reference desk, in the classroom, at outreach opportunities, training and meeting with student workers. Regardless of the time of year, I go to a lot of meetings. I know it’s standard to heap scorn on meetings, but I love them. I’m a very verbal person and I think some of the best work gets done when everyone has a chance to reflect, share their expertise, and make a contribution to the decision-making process.

What is a typical day like for you?
I get up every morning around 6:45. My partner (who is also a librarian, also at the UW) and I get our daughter ready for school. One or both of us drop her off and then take the bus to campus. That part of my day looks the same every day, but that’s where consistency ends. The inconsistency is a big upside of librarianship for me - I don’t do well in work environments without a lot of variation. I’m usually teaching, in a meeting, or on desk before 10 am every day. Between scheduled responsibilities, I’m in my office, running down my to-do list, catching up on the news (serving early-career undergraduate researchers means that I need to be up on current political and cultural events if I stand any chance of doing my job well), and preparing for the next thing.

What are you reading right now?
Unbelievable, by Katy Tur. I just finished Disobedience by Naomi Alderman and I have Call Me By Your Name coming via ILL. In the spirit of resisting the librarian stereotype, I’ll push against this and broaden the question to media in general. I love Halt and Catch Fire and Insecure. You should watch both if you haven’t. I’m watching The Marvelous Ms. Maisel as fast as I can. I listen to Crooked Media podcasts and Unorthodox every week. I still own an 80G iPod Classic. The last things I listened to were Melodrama by Lorde and 1989 by Taylor Swift (mostly because my five-year-old asked me to put it on in the car).

What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
I don’t know if I can boil this down to one piece of advice or one experience. I think the way I’ve best been able to grow as a professional is having the privilege of working in close proximity to amazing thinkers and doers in our field and having a lot of space to talk with them and listen to them. As I write this, I’m thinking specifically of Hope Olson, who was my professor, thesis supervisor, and boss for several years while I was in library school. She taught me so much about rigor and about the uses of theory in a field that can be practice-oriented. I’m also thinking of Carrie Kruse, my current supervisor, who is serious about the value of reflection, regard for individual expertise, and putting a lot of time and effort into interrogating what a library is and what its responsibilities to its community are.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
The trajectory of my career has been about coming to understand how much I enjoy working with people. I have a particular interest in patrons and colleagues who are situated at an entry or exit relative to the library - new undergraduates, the families of new undergraduates, people who tend to be underserved or misunderstood by academic libraries (which definitely includes undergraduates), new LIS graduate students, and LIS graduate students who are on the job market. I love supporting people whose information needs have undergone a shift. I do a lot more public speaking, training, and generally getting in people’s faces about what they need and how a librarian might be able to help than I thought I would when I was in library school. 

Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?

What is your least favorite word?

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
When I’m feeling burned out, I alternate between threatening to open a bakery and going to rabbinical school.

What profession would you never want to attempt?
Anything where the assessment of my job performance hinges on selling things to people.

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
I want a time-turner.

What are you most proud of in your career?
My graduate student workers, past and present. All of them.

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
Too many to count. At their heart, though, would be my overriding inclination to not pause long enough to find a useful way to apply my emotional reactions to things in a workplace setting. To be clear - this is not me making some nonsense argument equating being unemotional with being professional. I think our real goal, as professionals, should be to find ways to acknowledge our emotional and personal reactions to our work and make use of those reactions in a way that will do the most good for everyone involved. I’m getting better at it. I could get better still.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Spending time with my daughter (she is five and brilliant and fascinating), cooking, reading, being fannish, sleeping.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Dave Bloom (my partner, who has an interesting professional story) or any of my former graduate student workers (who are numerous and delightful - I can provide names).

Raina tweets at @mmelibrarian.