Librarian Advocacy

Image from page 321 of "St. Nicholas [serial]" (1873) This week I attended an event called “Librarianship in the age of Trump”. I am super glad that I went, but I walked away a little discouraged and a lot frustrated.

I think it is important to reflect on professional values (one of the reasons why I blog) and also keep up what is happening in the world.

The meeting was very well attended for the time and location with 15 people, and I was pleasantly surprised by the people attending from different areas of the profession.

In two hours what I think was really achieved was feeling out the edges of the questions, and learning from each other what a group looking at direct action for librarians(*) might look like.

Two streams of ideas sparked my interest:

  • Really working on library as place: specifically safe space for hard discussions
  • Using our “brand” to support media literacy, fact-checking, and information work.

I also loved some of the example ideas around using art, social media, and video to spread messages. Not something you usually hear from library folk.

What I found difficult:

  • The idea that only MLIS carrying librarians have a role in this sort of movement. Because while I feel that with a MLIS comes an obligation for reflective practice and community engagement there are many out there who don’t hold an MLIS who are equally engaged and passionate. They should not be barred from participation.
  • That people weren’t really sure what is currently being done in the larger librar* community around these issues.

Anyway, I plan to continue participating, because I do feel like I have something to add to discussions like this, and want to be able to make a positive impact on my community with my skills.

Core Values of my provincial library association

  • Access and Inclusion
  • Intellectual Freedom
  • Innovation and Creativity
  • Diversity
  • Literacy and Lifelong Learning
  • Accountability

More here: https://bclaconnect.ca/about/bcla-values-statement/

Raganathan’s 5 Laws of Library Science

  1. Books are for use.
  2. Every reader his / her book.
  3. Every book its reader.
  4. Save the time of the reader.
  5. The library is a growing organism.

And the variants: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_laws_of_library_science#Variants

Relevant Resources:

There are more that I wasn’t able to track down.

( many thanks to Kevin, Tami and Phil for organizing the meeting, and Myron for answering some think-y tweets of mine)

Reflecting on library education

A while back someone asked about how I felt about library school since it has been a few years (four and a half) since I graduated from Western’s FIMS MLIS program.

I had to take a bit to think about it since now it has been long enough that my other library education also has become quite embedded in my mind as well.

So I split my thoughts into three parts: the benefits over time of the library technician diploma, the benefits over time of the MLIS, and in general why library education is valuable.

1. Library Technician Diploma

I loved my time at Langara and cannot speak highly enough of their Library Technician program. What you get there is a great grounding in the practical skills required for library work, as well as a solid foundation in library theory. Like: what are libraries, the different types, the types of work done, and also why library work is valuable and how it contributes to the various communities served. As well, the very practical cataloguing skills and theory I gained (and have forgotten most of) has helped me countlessly over the years.

2. Masters of Library and Information Science

For me going completing my MLIS was sort of inevitable, and I knew exactly what school I wanted to attend long before I applied. I fell in love with Western’s Faculty of Information and Media Studies during my undergrad when visiting the school while a friend attended. The friendly, enthusiastic students and future-facing curriculum were what I wanted in a school.

As well, I was employed full-time at a library and had my library technician background. Therefore, the option of taking an intensive 12-month program was the best option for me. I also knew that (public) libraries were the right career path for me and that at its heart an MLIS program is a vocational school, and libraries are my passion.

So, the courses and their value. I’m not going to go back and look up every course since a reflection 4 years out should really be about what can easily be recalled.

Plan, practice, assess and evaluate. That’s what a lot of the courses boiled down to, they looked at different aspects of library work and function in different levels of detail but that is what is left once the details fade away. Living this practice of planning, acting, and assessing for the duration of the program has really helped in the long term. As well, we received the foundations for doing strategic and big picture sort of work – looking at why we do the things we do, and if it can be done better, and how to plan to go about making changes.

Stand-out courses for me were program planning and evaluation ones like the courses on web design and usability testing, outcomes assessment, and library management. I still have strong memories of the management course, it was tough but really valuable. And I hope to always remember by Reader’s Advisory class with fondness.

The more foundational courses on cataloguing and reference work were not as useful to me due to previous experience, but additional practice and reflection is always useful.

The other key part of library school, for me, was truly living and breathing library theory and practice for a year. I participated in committees and groups, spent lunches and evenings talking shop with classmates, worked in the (fantastic) Graduate Resource Centre, and in my final two semesters steered a committee that planned and ran a student conference. I always say that you get out what you put into school, and I put it all in, and have benefited from it.

Despite leaving exhausted (and burned out), it was an incredible and valuable experience.

3. Library Education generally 

And I haven’t stopped learning since then. Conferences, courses, webinars, pop-labs, blogs, social media, committees, conversations with co-workers and friends, they all have allowed me to keep building my skills, have challenged me to think differently, and to grow.

I have met and worked with many incredible library workers who don’t have any formal library training, and that does not make me respect them or their work any less. I do feel that my library education has served me well and has made it easier for me to make an impact in my work. It has also made the decisions I’ve made easier, and allowed to draw on a background of research and theory to make them.

As I have continued to develop in my work I appreciate my education more and more which is neat. Thank you Western & Langara!

Inspiration

i love this photoSometimes you get lucky. You meet the right people, and every time you have a conversation, you come away feeling invigorated and inspired.

Today, after a day that felt a little long, I had a meeting with someone for a project. Traffic was awful, the characters in the book I’m listening to are awful, and finding parking was a bear, making me late. It wouldn’t be untrue to say that I was a little grumpy.

Then I sat down, said hello, and was laughing and relaxed in minutes. We talked shop, we talked non-shop, we covered what we needed to cover, and kept going. I’ve spent the time since planning alternate social media strategies, thinking about how to create champions for other projects that I am involved in, how to find and engage and, and –

Some people are like that rush you get after going to a conference – that feeling of community, like minds, and potential, like the sky is the limit. It is wonderful.

I am fortunate enough to have more than one of these people in my life, and I hope that you do as well. Not just for shop talk, but a person who inspires you to write, or paint, or travel. Someone who really listens and hears, who discusses things that you both are interested in an passionate about and it inspires.

Hopefully they are a friend, or someone you can talk to when you need a top up. They might have a mentor-like role, or perhaps are family. But I wish that everyone has, or finds someone like this for them.

And I also hope that I (someday soon) will be able to have the same effect on others that these fantastic people have had on me.

That is something to aspire to.

Patience

After working in training for nearly eight years – I tend to hear a lot of “you are so patient” or “how are you so patient?” A bit strange to me, because patience with technology feels natural to me at this point, but I understand that it isn’t the same for everyone.

I’ve been thinking a bit lately (as I often do) about why dealing with technology seems easier for some and not for others. And I am starting to think that working with technology helps, even if it hurts a bit at first. I think the below points are key concepts in building the mental models of adaptability and patience around technology.

It is okay to fail.

There is nothing quite like completing what you think are all of the steps correctly, and having the software or hardware not work. Luckily (most of the time) you haven’t broken anything, and can easily try again.

There is a lot of iteration in working with technology. Try once, adjust, try again. This is like the scientific method you learned in school, control (as many as possible) variables, change one, experiment, re-test.

You fail a lot when working with new tech, and sometimes even with something you are familiar with. Troubleshooting, and improving, is what you spend most of your time doing.

The reward for trying again is perhaps success. There is no reward for stopping at failure.

You don’t always have control over change.

Anyone who has worked with community members accessing their webmail after Yahoo! or Hotmail has made a style change, people feel lost and confused when change to the familiar occurs. And, with many technology changes, we, the users, don’t get to control when or how a change occurs.

If you know that change will happen, you can let yourself learn more naturally – watch trends – “what do website menus usually look like?” “what are common compose menus?” “how might that machine tell me that it is broken?”

Also – change is unavoidable, so rolling with it is less stressful than the alternative.

Coping with frustration quickly helps with productivity.

Whether it is taking a few deep breaths before dealing with a broken widget, or stepping away from a software snafu for a time, you need to take breaks from frustrations. Not indefinitely, abandoning the project, but for a set period of time.

The more frustrated, or angry you are, the less likely you will be able to spot the error that has occurred, and the less likely you are able to be think the problem through.

Learn what ways best work for you when you are frustrated, will help you move forward with technology tasks.

Practice helps beyond the initial task.

The more familiar and practised you get with dealing with webmail – that can also help with desktop mail clients. And the more you troubleshoot excel, the more you will feel comfortable troubleshooting Word problems – as you start to identify what sources are most effective. And the same patience you use when learning your phone / computer is the same that you can apply when approaching a different machine.

 

These tips might also help with issues outside of the technology realm. What works for you?

Some Resources:

Book Review: The Productivity Project

The staff at my municipality have started a leadership book club that meets monthly over lunch. It is a really neat idea, and this month I decided to participate.

The book of choice for this month was Chris Bailey’s The Productivity Project.

image of the cover of Chris Bailey's book the producitivity projectFor the most part, I am a productive person, and don’t read books like this myself since I don’t have a lot of productivity concerns. That aside, this was a nice, quick read full of useful advice. I was able to read it in about two and a half hours, but that was without completing any of the activities in each chapter.

The author took a life-long fascination with productivity to an interesting extreme when he took a year to research productivity and run productivity experiments on himself. This book was written as part of that project (hence the title) and the author’s accessible writing style, and great set-up for the book made for interesting reading.

Many of the tips and advice in the book won’t be new to people who have been in the workforce for any length of time, or done any reading on organization, time management, or similar topics. It split most advice into 3 areas of concentration to be more productive: time, energy, and attention. All of the author’s tips worked on how to manage balance and focus in those areas to maximize productivity in both your work and personal life. I especially enjoyed his writing on procrastination.

I find, for myself, that the more time pressed I am at work, the better my productivity habits. When I don’t have hard deadlines this start to slide. To that end some of the habits that I hope to reinstate for myself are:

  • Drink more water
  • Take some time to meditate daily
  • Phone goes into a drawer at work
  • Take breaks
  • Update my lists: projects, projects, planning

And generally be more mindful when completing tasks and moving about my day.

I’d recommend this book for anyone interested in productivity since it is such an easy, quick read, as well as for the addition of activities.

 

 

A bit on Library Work and Self-Care

Recently I was lucky enough to be able to take a one week course on Supervisory Skills. It was the equivalent of a full semester course, and was intense, and wonderful. There was lots of time for reflection due to the immersion

I’ll unpack the ideas and concepts more here over time, but what I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is self-care and emotional labour.

This isn’t a new topic in the library world, and there are lots of more thoughtful people than myself writing about these topics (resources below), but here are my two cents.

Many introverts work in libraries. A lot of public library work is public service. Working with the public is exhausting, especially for people that don’t gain energy from being around people.

A key part of all libraries is finding information for others. Whether it be books, research, or resources, it is about serving the community. As is programming, like storytimes and computer classes, arranging for guest speakers (so many phone calls). This sort of service can be draining. We don’t always think about the energy this takes since we don’t always get a concrete result of our work. But is is work, and it can be very hard.

All this means that you have to make time for yourself. Especially casual library workers. Take the time to do activities that recharge you, read a book on a topic you love, listen to music, go for a walk, work at your hobby.

Find community. We are all a sort of informal community, people in similar workplaces, doing similar work, but it is good to touch base directly sometimes as well. I take time to have lunch with co-workers sometimes, and have arranged a monthly evening get-together with local library staff. I find that talking with others about our common interests and concerns really helps me cope with stress and distress.
Some recommended reads

Emotional Labour and Mental Health in the Library

A Librarian’s Approach to Self-Care | Hack Library School

The Compassionate Librarian | Self-Care

#self care on Librarian Burnout

 

Places to look for people to talk to

An Open Thank You Letter to a Computer Teacher

Dear Mr. Zimmer;

macplusYou won’t remember me, but about 22 years ago you taught me about computers and programming. This was in a small, windowless room in a small elementary school in Surrey.

During my time as your student we used HyperCard to tell stories and create puzzles, and Logo to create designs and animations. I remember being challenged, sometimes frustrated, and ultimately so happy when I was able to make something work.

logo_turtle

I remember your kindness, enthusiasm, and dedication. Thinking back, I am amazed and appreciative of the effort it must have taken to get 20 plus 8 – 12 year olds using computers. Knowing that most of us would never seek computers as a living, you still persevered, and encouraged us to go further.

And when I speak to other people my age, I realise that having an early computer education as I did is pretty rare, which makes me appreciate what you did even more.

Now, two decades later, not as a teacher, but as a librarian, I am helping in my own small way to show young people the wonder of programming.

Through library programs, kits, and other activities, I am (and many others) working to help young people challenge the way they think, to solve problems, and maybe, just maybe, discover a love of technology and programming.

When I think about when my love of computers and problem-solving, I am able to think back to those days in your class, and I am grateful.

Thank you,

Sarah

PS: Recently, I’ve also been able to set up some activities using Python with the logo Turtle.

Software Review: AMI’s DuOS

Recently I decided to replace my tablet and laptop with a Microsoft Surface 3 (more about it some other time). One of the deciding factors in choosing it as a device was the ability to run an Android system on demand.

How? AMI’s DuOS. This program allows you to launch android on a Windows machine, and on a Surface, it looks like a regular tablet experience. You can add the official Play Store easily, and then download and run all of the apps that you might want.

amiduos

There is a free 30 trial, with Version 1.1 (Jellybean) costing $10 US, and Version 2.0 (Lollipop) costing $15 US (currently about $20 CAD).  They do have frequent opportunities to win a full license, which I did, but I would have paid for the full license without any reservation. They have an active support forum, and some good videos as well.

The main issue that I’ve encountered so far is that sometimes it doesn’t launch full screen, but I think that it might have something to do with available memory. But, I’ve had fun exploring, and highly recommend this software for everyone who likes the Android system but also wants to run Windows.

Other Android emulators include:

And Digital Trends just published a AMI DuOS review as well.

#libfaves15 and the “Best Books” phenomenon

At the end of the year there are a lot of “best Books of” lists (and others of course), a chance for people to catch up on titles that they might have missed during the year. This seems to be a time when people want to show how smart they are, how many critically acclaimed books that they can mention in a post. But, no one should feel bad about not reading enough, or not enjoying the books that others are reading.

Or, like with movie lists, try and make sure that the list writer’s tastes match the reader’s tastes. Because I’ve known for years that what I like in a movie has very little to do with what a newspaper film critic enjoys in a movie.

There was an excellent tweet that I came across when working on gathering a list of all the books published in 2015 that I’ve read and enjoyed this year (spoiler, I only managed 5).

tweetonbooks

This reminder should bring you back to Raganathan’s 5 Laws of library science or more specifically the 2nd and 3rd laws.

“Every reader his/her book” and “Every book its reader”

Don’t judge a person by their request, don’t tell them that it is a “bad” book, and it isn’t your job to educate someone on better reading.

People read for different reasons. From entertainment, escapism, to learn, to be able to participate in conversations with their peers. People also read for different reasons at different times. I don’t work with Readers Advisory all that much and even I have had countless interactions with people sheepishly confessing, “well I’m going to be travelling so I want something a bit lighter to read”, like I might judge them on their favourite author or genre. (On the flip side there are also the super explicit requests for “cozy mysteries about female detectives by british authors, no violence, no bad language, no sex”).

Sometimes you start books, but can’t finish them until you are in the right headspace. Sometimes you just start and never finish a book.

And this is why I try and participate in projects like #libfaves15 , in my own small way, I can inject some non-typical titles into the “Best Books” arena, so that those who don’t see their reading tastes reflected, can see a bit of diversity. Scrolling through the list now I see graphic novels, romances, and lots of fantasy in additional to the expected favourites. Efforts like this help illustrate how diverse our reading habits and tastes are.

Book Review: Sorcerer to the Crown

Do you ever read a book that you really, really want to love, but can’t? Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown is that book for me.

 

There was a lot that I loved about it: the characters – fully formed, complex, flawed, and clever, the world (most important to me)- alt-England where magic is real, if fading, and fully part of society, and the plot – see fading magic.  With more to love, like the discussions of gender and race politics, and class.

I knew from reading the blurb before it was published that this should be a book that I should love, and was eager to read it. But, I didn’t.

Over the last two months I’ve struggled to put into words why I didn’t like it. Why it was a book that I might recommend to some, but would never re-read, and there are a lot of people that I wouldn’t recommend it to. And since no one I know has read it, it has been a solo struggle.

But, I’ve figured it out. There are 2 reasons that the Sorcerer to the Crown wasn’t for me, and might not be for you.

  1. “Alt-Regency” this book, in additional to the other aspects, is an imagined alternative to the Regency genre. I have never read any regency fiction as the prose is written very densely, and is distracting from the story. Also, boring.
  2. This book is literature, and reads like an intellectual exercise. A little bit like why I really, really disliked Grossman’s the Magicians, it doesn’t feel like a story, more like a bunch of component parts (I want my book to have ingredients A, B, and C, but not D – make D the opposite!) and less about building a compelling story. And, because of that it feels elitist which turns me off immediately.

tl;dr despite looking on paper like a great addition to the fantasy genre Sorcerer to the Crown is actually literature, which isn’t my cup of tea.