Misery? We got an index for that…

After having a particularly trying couple of weeks, I decided that I needed to brush up on my data searching skills. Lame? Maybe…But insightful? Always… I never fail to learn something new and random when browsing data and statistics. Not everything in this world is collected and measured by an institution that can be considered “reliable”, but there is some pretty strange stuff out there that is collected. Institutions collect data that they feel is important to them in some ways, and many of the big places like the CDC, DLS and Census can provide a pretty interesting picture of our history in many different aspects of the human realm. Seeing as I’m grumpy and all, I came across something that caught my eye. Something called, ironically enough, The Misery Index.

Misery index pic

Data Planet provided information about the United States Misery Index number from 1947-2017, and surprisingly it looks like “misery” peaked sometime near 1981. I wasn’t sure what these numbers even mean though. What does a misery index score of 5 mean? Where did they get this information from?

Here’s the background from Data Planet:

Reports the Misery Index, a calculated measure of economic health based on the inflation rate and the unemployment rate. The Misery Index was created originally by economist Arthur Okun in the 1960s as the Economic Discomfort Index. Ronald Reagan is attributed to its renaming. The index is a calculated measure of economic health of a nation that sums the inflation rate and the unemployment rate. Data-Planet utilizes Bureau of Labor Statistics data to calculate the statistics presented here. (Data-Planet, 2017).

Basically you add the unemployment rate to the inflation rate and there is your index number. When I look at the numbers, I’m kind of surprised that the recession of 2007 didn’t match the misery index numbers of the early 80’s. Looks like that one was worse than the one that I had experienced. I hear a lot about these things being cyclical, markets, money, inflation, etc. I’m not very well studied in the area of economics, but it’s important historically to understand the basic premise for why these things happen, so we have a better chance of avoiding or preparing for it.I guess the Misery Index only deals with “financial” misery, which I suppose IS the overall cause of misery for many of us out there, even though we try to remember that money isn’t everything most people I know struggle with it, myself included.

Now that I’ve depressed you with talk of the financial struggles, recession, and overall misery, here’s a fun fact… 55-64 year olds in the US appear to be taking better care of their natural teeth in in recent years. In 2001 the % of 55-64 year olds wearing dentures was 15.8%, by 2010 that percentage decreased to 10.5 %. That’s more than a 5% decrease! What great news, and what a time to be alive with all this modern dentistry.

Dentures

In other things that are awesome in the US it appears that we have done a good job in nearly eradicating the Sexually Transmitted Disease Chancroid, which peaked at 5,000 cases a year in 1987 then shrank substantially sometime in the early 2000’s clocking only 25 cases in 2008. I don’t even think we learned about this one in school, I’ve never heard of it. (Not that I’m an expert in STD’s or anything but…)  This may be another one for another day, but if you are interested in what the hell Chancroid is take a peek here:

Chancroid Fast Facts- CDC

Chancriod

 

 

Data-Planet (2017-05-06). Misery Index: Misery Index, 01/1948 – 04/2017.Data-Planet™ Statistical Datasets by Conquest Systems, Inc. [Data-file]. Dataset-ID:077-003-001

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013-01-15). Dentures: Currently Wearing Dentures | Age: 55-64 years | Race/Ethnicity: All | Gender: All Genders, 2001 – 2010. Data-Planet™ Statistical Datasets by Conquest Systems, Inc. [Data-file]. Dataset-ID: 005-044-001

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2008-10-18). Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Rates: STD Count | Gender: All Genders | Standard Name*: Chancroid, 1984  – 2008.Data-Planet™ Statistical Datasets by Conquest Systems, Inc. [Data-file]. Dataset-ID:005-020-001

Listen and Sell

It’s summer time here at the U, so we have some time to breathe, and to enjoy the laid back atmosphere. This also means my schedule shifts, and no more Sundays until September.  I like having the Sundays off because it’s more aligned with normal people, but also because I get to brunch again with real humans at a place, not just making a large late breakfast and drinking champagne on a Wednesday by myself at home. I’ve been ignoring my roulette, and to some degree my self-appointed blogging duties for a while due to other projects (more on that coming soon). But that means I can just shift my roulette over to Friday and keep on it.

Today I chose a random book from our book sale here at the U. Sometimes professors or other people affiliated with the University will make large donations, and every now and then there are multiple copies of the same book. I looked over at the sale shelf and saw about 40 copies of a new book, so I had to go and see what it was all about.

The book for this week is called:

Masters of Sales: Secrets from Top Sales Professionals That Will Transform You into a World Class Salesperson by Ivan Misner and Don Morgan.

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I flipped through the book and noticed that each little section is written by different folks from the profession sharing lessons and advice, etc. I opened up randomly to this excerpt:

Earning the Right to Be Heard by Stuart Mitchell

Two of the strongest criticisms about salespeople are:

  1. They are only interested in selling me something
  2. They don’t really care about me

By contrast, I listen to my prospects and clients and win national sales awards year after year, while consistently doubling my sales targets. My claim to fame is that I actively listen to my prospects and clients. “Active listening” is like a bank account. The more active listening deposits you make, the more sales withdrawals you get. It works this way. When you listen to your prospects – AND THEY KNOW IT- they will, in return, listen to what you have to say about your product. This leads to more sales.  (Misner & Morgan, 2007, p.103)

I’ve always had a tough relationship with sales people, I always assume they are up to no good. I often avoid them when I see them approaching me at a mall, or try my very best to never have to change phone plans, or bank accounts or whatever.  I usually tell them what I need, but they don’t really help me with that. Often times I end in programs or plans that are more likely to help them hit their “numbers” while putting me in a less than ideal situation. Maybe I’m too much of a pushover; maybe I just give everybody the benefit of the doubt when I shouldn’t. I don’t know but me and the idea of sales have just never mixed. This isn’t a blanket statement; there are good sales people out there. I worked in real estate forever ago, and in the many loan officers I met there were actually a couple of decent ones, they were good at what they did, and looked out for their clients. I don’t know if the field has changed much, but these good seeds were pretty few and far between.  But what makes a salesperson “good”?  In business they usually see your numbers, not your client satisfaction, which may be where the trouble comes about. I wonder how much the world would change if instead of money/revenue/numbers/ products sold companies actually paid attention to customer satisfaction as the rating for sales people and made this the gauge for if they kept their jobs or got bonuses. How well people were treated by salespeople and companies in general would definitely change, for the better.

There will also be times in your life when you have to “sell” yourself. As much as this makes me cringe it’s true, there’s job interviews, writing resumes and cover letters, online dating, even friendship s sometimes begin with trying to convince somebody that you are indeed cool enough to hang out with. So maybe let’s take deeper look into this “active listening” and see what it’s really about and how it can be used to benefit a situation.

 

Here is one definition of it:

 

Active Listening: An approach to interpersonal communication that requires sensitivity and open-mindedness on the part of the listener and a willingness to share information and opinions on the part of the speaker. Listening actively allows the one who is hearing to comprehend the underlying message beneath the content of the words voiced, to evaluate fairly the speaker, and to reconsider previously held attitudes. Being heard in a nonjudgmental manner gives the speaker the confidence for self-expression without fear of criticism or intimidation and a sense that what he or she has to say is of value. Active listening has been used successfully in the workplace and in other social settings, as well as in health and mental health practice, to bring about changes for the better in both the listener and the speaker. Learning the art of active listening takes practice. (Sullivan, 2009)

 

So basically, it’s allowing the person speaking to say what they need to say without judgment in an open minded setting. One of the interesting parts of this definition it says active listening allows the listener to find the underlying message in the words of the speaker.  When I hear underlying I think of reading between the lines, so it feels to me like a way to decipher something and get a meaning that may lie deeper than the surface.  Maybe somebody says “I want dessert, and I really haven’t had ice cream in so long” you could actively listen and get that person some ice cream. Even though they didn’t say, “hey I want ice cream, can you get me some?” This allows you to understand what they are trying to get across on a deeper level. That may be a really bad example, but I kind of want ice cream right now so, sorry, but you get the point. I could see how this could be useful in many aspects of life, business, friendships, and most definitely romantic relationships.

 

I meet with a group of women each month, where we practice active listening with one another, and the way she describes it is like the speaker is a rock being dropped into the water. Her words are like ripples in the pond. Let her say her truth, and sit silently, absorb it, don’t respond to it or say, “yes I agree” or “me too” because that lessens the value of the words being said, also, if you are busy trying to formulate a response then you aren’t really listening. You lose what the person is saying because you are somewhere else in your own head formulating a comment. Once the ripples are gone, a few moments of silence, and another woman can start in. I don’t practice this enough to say that its life changing, but I should more often. As the definition says it takes practice. As much as I don’t like sales people I’ve also never liked to listen to others so this post is all about those hard things. I do feel the excerpt is pitchy and  sounds like it’s written by a salesperson, there is much value to what is being said there. I don’t think I’ll be reading the rest of this book, but if you are interested, consult your local library. Or, just come here we have like 40 copies for .50 cents each.

 

 

Misner, I. & Morgan, D. (2007). Masters of Sales: secrets from top sales professionals that will transform you into a world class sales person. New York; Entrepreneur Press.

 

Sullivan, L. E. (2009). Active listening. In The SAGE glossary of the social and behavioral sciences (Vol. 3, pp. 6-6). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd. doi: 10.4135/9781412972024.n33

 

Sorry, not sorry…

I have had two co-workers in the last week tell me that they are thinking of going to grad school to get an MLIS (Master of Library and Information Science) degree so they can pursue librarianship. Many people are surprised this degree even exists, but if you want to be a librarian pretty much anywhere in the United States you eventually will end up needing to get this degree. It’s one of the standard minimum requirements for a lot of places, but not all, especially the more private or special interest libraries or museums.

My two co-workers are very different people with very different interests, but the degree seems to fit well for both of them. One works at the public library, she focuses on children’s services, and the other works at the University mainly focusing on tech services. My advice to both of them… GO for it.

When I first decided to go to grad school about 7 years ago, it was a big decision. I didn’t know anybody who had been to grad school before; I had never even so much as volunteered in a library, so I wasn’t sure if it was a good investment. I didn’t get in my first year, since I applied late, but got in the next year for fall 2011. It seemed to start out well; I felt a bit underachiever-y compared to my classmates, some of which already had successful careers in libraries, with blogs and volunteer projects. All I had done up until then was work in a totally unrelated field of real estate investment and stone shipping. In 2012, after my first full year of the program Forbes magazine released their annual list of the worst master’s degrees. Guess what #1 was??  Yep, the MLIS. In fact, even last year in 2016 Forbes still thinks that it’s in the top 5, rounding out at #4. So, am I sorry I chose this route? Nope, not one bit, not at all. If I were to listen to Forbes I would be somewhere getting a degree in statistics and being miserable. It’s just not me even if it appears to be profitable.

2012 Forbes list here

2016 Forbes list here

It seems that the things that I love in life most won’t make me any money (according to these list and most people I talk to). The MLIS rounds out at 4 and creative writing at 12. But you know ,even though it can seem bleak at times; I wouldn’t trade pursuing my interests and the things I love for a bigger paycheck, or for something that seems more “secure”. Everybody is different, some people don’t find fulfillment through their careers, and they choose to just work to get money and support families, and find joy other places in life. Which also works, but when I hear that a student here is pursuing a particular degree just so they can make money, it just makes me a little sad.

So where am I going with all this? Well, number one; always follow your dreams people!  Two, as I’m having this conversation with my co-worker at the public I look up at the new bookshelf directly in front of me and find a book titled: This is What a Librarian Looks Like: A Celebration of Libraries and Access to Information by Kyle Cassidy.

IMG_1336 - Copy

It’s a collection of pictures of actual librarians from all walks of life across the United States talking about why they got into librarianship and why they love it. It also includes excerpts about libraries by authors such as Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin. Obviously, as somebody who shares a passion for libraries it was great to read what like-minded professionals like myself had to say in defense of our libraries and how they affect the communities that they serve, so I get it, but if you are one of those people who doesn’t understand why libraries exist then maybe it could shine some light on it for you.

A while back I applied with the California Department of Corrections with the thought that maybe I would like to be a librarian in a correctional facility. After talking with some people in my life and researching online I don’t know if it’s a path I am interested in any longer, but something about being a librarian makes you want to help out those that need it most. There’s a Correctional Facility Librarian from Colorado named Sam Leif that put it into words that really touched me the most, he said:

“Libraries can help stop a generational cycle of abuse, victimization, or anger. They can rehabilitate, help people grow and change in life.” (p. 112)

One thing that I’ve noticed in this profession is since we don’t generate revenue we are constantly keeping stats on how many questions we answer. We need to generate reports that remind people that we are still relevant and to fund us (pleeeassseeeee??). As much as we have proof on paper in the form of tick marks or computer generated data from online sheets I think that our biggest success stories can be in the form of the lives we change and opportunities that we can provide for people who otherwise might not have had a chance.

Can you think of any ways that a library has changed your life, influenced you positively, or just gave you a place to hang out for a little away from it all?

 

Cassidy, K. (2017). This is what a librarian looks like: a celebration of libraries, communities, and access to information. New York:  Black Dog.

Re-branding or Evolution?

Like everybody else in the known universe right now I am watching 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. I read the book (actually reviewed it here) about a year ago and thought it was great, so I was really excited to check out what they did with the series. I won’t laundry list the differences between the book and series, (most of which I don’t agree with but hey, that’s what Hollywood does) except one that really kind of got to me on a personal level.

I just watched the episode where Hannah joins the poetry group at the local library. How does she find out about this poetry group? Well, a young, hipster, male librarian wearing a scarf in her school’s gymnasium tells her about it. What? He wasn’t anywhere in the book? Anyhow, he gives this speech about how people stereotype librarians to be these small, gray haired old ladies and that it’s not really how it is anymore, that the profession was “re-branding” itself.

My first instinct was to get annoyed. Very annoyed, but only because it hit so close to home. Maybe it’s one of those things where you buy a blue car and start seeing blue cars everywhere but I have been seeing a lot more of librarians mentioned in the media. First of all that weird show where they time travel what the heck is that all about? Then there was some crack about librarians and the way they look when I was watching season 2 of crazy ex-girlfriend, and now this. The more I thought about it though, the less annoyed I actually got, realizing that I did in fact fit quite well into this new “re-branded” type of librarian.

The use of the word “re-branding” is actually where I felt the rub, it’s such a big term used in business , and I don’t like the thought of being part of a brand or contributing to one. If you do a quick google of library AND re-branding you are going to get quite a bit of info, it appears to be a hot topic these days. The way I feel about it all is that libraries should be anti-corporate and independent of politics such as making money, or selling themselves. I know that patrons are the reason that we get funded, I get that we should be offering more technological services and provide the public (or students) with further reaching services but don’t call it re-branding, call it evolving. We aren’t selling ourselves, we are adapting and expanding to public needs in order to serve our communities and patron bases.

That’s only addressing the library, not the librarians themselves. Now it seems we have jumped from one stereotype of the library worker to another. One of a grey and aging woman behind the reference desk filing and shushing people to one where a hip young person dashes around the library brimming with poetic fervor while being tech savvy and fashion forward all at the same time. It’s not a bad thing, but again, I feel it’s more of a natural evolution in terms of what kind of personalities are drawn to working in libraries. What are the goals, aspirations and strengths of this new generation of librarians and how can they bring these skills to the table to help serve their patrons? Well, it’s just a natural transition if you think about it, old ways phasing out to be more in tune with the new. It’s not that one generation is better than the previous, it’s just that things have changed and change is constant, especially with technology being so heavily relied on as a part of our everyday lives. I work with many different generations of librarians at both jobs, and we all have our strengths and weaknesses in the field which allow us to learn from one another and grow together as a team towards a common goal. I love those white haired older ladies that were doing this before there was even the internet, and I love my 20 something’s in the makerspaces who I swear have brains that are half computer. We are diverse crowd serving a diverse crowd, and I like it that way, without grouping us all into a “brand”.

In my short searching around I found a movie that we have streaming through the U called: The Hollywood Librarian: A look at Librarians through film. I have a plan to watch it this week, and I’ll give my review sometime soon. It’s from 2009, a bit older than I’d like, but I’m sure still has some pretty interesting insight.

this party is to fire!

Being a weekend lady here at the U I miss most of the action of the week. Sure, there’s still students here on the weekends, but it’s busiest Monday Through Wednesday, tapers off Thursday, Friday is dead, Saturday is hit or miss being either super slow or super busy, and we pick back up Sunday for all those trying to get their homework ready for the week. I usually come in Thursday morning, make my rounds and ask people what I missed.

This morning I was in for a treat. The daytime circulation supervisor had a story for me. He was sitting at his desk, which is behind windows and a sliding door that is usually open, meaning that it’s pretty out of the way and most people don’t go back there unless they are an employee or affiliated with the library in some way. He’s sitting at his desk, when a student approaches him and introduces himself. Then, the student who looks like he may or may not belong to a fraternity hands him a flyer for a party. I guess you may be wondering, well what the hell is so funny about this? 1) If you knew library people you would know that we probably don’t look like we want to party, especially when we are like 10 years older than the students so the fact that he purposely singled out my co-worker and went out of his way to give him this flyer is just weird 2) You have to wait until you hear the hype written on the front of the flyer, It’s so good that I couldn’t make it up if I wanted to.

Here is the flyer itself, it appears to be a concert show:

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The first band is named Victor Hugo (library points for that one ONLY). Right below the info is this blurb, I will write it here exactly as it is on the flyer:

Your gonna party so hard

your dancing and your mind

will explode on fire you’l try to call

200 firefighters to extinguish the flames

but no can will be able to

extinguish the heat because this party is to fire!

 

200 firefighters can’t even put out the flames after your dancing and mind explode from the party? Wow. That’s amazing. I think I may have to go and check this one out! I just want to kind of see dancing exploding all over the place, I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed that before. Just have to be careful because no can will be able to put out those flames, maybe if you called 300 firefighters?

OH College. I’m going to be laughing about this one alllll week.

Sunday before spring break

Working at the University today, it’s the Sunday before spring break and it’s dead. One of those lovely days when I just get to sit here and read, and wait, for somebody to ask me something, anything.. anyone?

So, end of shift updates. I have helped via chat 3 people. I can’t remember the first one. But I told somebody our hours, and helped another student find facts about the cultural climate and economy of Pakistan. Here’s a tidbit I found especially grim:

“Pakistan is a patriarchal Islamic society where men dominate in all areas of public and private life. Pakistani women and girls are particularly prone to acts to violence from men. Such acts can include beatings, mutilation, having acid thrown on their faces, murder, custodial beatings, rape, and the practice of “honor killings,” where a woman who deviates from established social and cultural norms is killed, ostensibly to protect the family’s honor.”

-Global Road Warrior database, Pakistan: Women in Culture

Makes you think about how scary of a place this world can be. I feel for the oppressed and hope that one day women in Pakistan can be seen as equals, at the very least not murdered for being different or progressive. OK, rant over, sorry for the bring down. Sunday funday once again.

 

Ok, not all Librarians.. Just me

So why am I doing this? Every time I tell somebody what I do, they ask me, do people still go to libraries? Do you think we need libraries, can’t people just Google it? What exactly do you do tell people to be quiet all day long? Do people actually still read books, won’t everything be digital in another couple of years? Why? AH! It’s annoying. Even at both of my jobs I have to keep stats, questions answered, instruction sessions taught. It’s like I am constantly justifying my existence as a librarian, and as to WHY and how libraries serve their patron base. So this is mainly for me, to remind myself. What DO I do on a daily basis?  Is my existence really justified?  I’ll start with a background…

I’m 32, and just starting out really in the field. Like every other good librarian I dragged my butt through a grad program, came out on the other end with a mountain of debt and shiny happy hopes and dreams for the future of information services. I have been a reference assistant for 2 1/2 years at a public library, and a reference and instruction librarian at a private college for a little over 1 year now. So, I run into a great mix of people, and questions that range from.. “what is my email password?” to “I am researching the use of pornographic materials in married couples”. I mean, each day I learn something new, which is great. But some days, especially on the public side, I have all but lost faith in humanity all together. So this is just kind of a journey. And it’s not just about a profession, it’s about a lot of things, people, manners, technology, public spaces, education, etc. Hopefully by logging this all I can determine if I really made the right choice here, and if librarians really do make a difference.