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.

Dream Job Daydreaming..

I got a pretty amazing text today from a friend tell me that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland is hiring for a librarian. Holy mother of pearl. I got that text, and within two hours whipped up a new cover, tweaked the old res and send in the application. When you see something like this you jump on it, I can only imagine that everybody in the known universe is going to be applying for this one.

I think that often people have a narrow view of librarianship and what kind of jobs you can find in the field. There are libraries everywhere, at zoos, botanic gardens, museums, churches, schools, pharmaceutical companies, big businesses, historical societies, and the list can go on and on and on and on. It is always to the dream to meld all your passions into one gigantic ball and make enough money to live at the same time, and this, well this would be astronomically cool.

I do live right here in reality. I understand that I’m just starting out, and applying to something like this is pretty much a shot in the dark, but you know, if you don’t put your name out there how will you ever know.

The museum has a library and archives that is accessible by advance appointment only.

They have a really cool tutorial on how to navigate the online searching and finding all the things. If you scroll down on the research guide you can even search particular artists, a Bruce Springsteen subject guide, I’m dorking out, but if you love music, and you have a second, poke around at these, its fun.

They have archival collections, but the material is only available in person. They don’t appear to have any digital collections, which is bumming me out a little because I’m of the computer age and want instant gratification. I get it though, with items and memorabilia of this kind, it could easily taken off the internet and  be used without permission commercially, so a digital collection doesn’t seem suited for a library like this. Just another example of how different kinds of collections and their accessibility is defined by the library and the items it holds.

So far I’ve worked public library, academic library, and special interest library, academic archives and special collections, but I have yet to step foot into thinking about music librarianship. I wouldn’t say that the RRHOF library IS strictly a music library because it has normal library materials and archival items as well as sound recordings, but there are places that just strictly catalog and keep collections of music. The difference between this library and a normal one is that it’s all treated like one big special collections unit based around the subject of music and music history, I’m pretty sure none of the items circulate.

OH my god they have handwritten Erasure set lists, ok ok, see it’s a rabbit hole I can search all day. Even if I don’t get this job, I would like to at least add this to the very very long lists of libraries that I need to visit before I die.

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.

Book hoarding

Librarians are the worst kind of library patrons hands down. We hoard things, check them out and override max number of check outs, or just keep the items forever since we get no fees. Sorry it’s so true. Part of the time you feel like a kid in a candy store. There so much out there to get your hands on. And with both public and academic libraries at my disposal it becomes even worse. I pick up so many books and hold on to them for months and never get around to reading them. It’s a balance, you have to force yourself to do social things occasionally or be a shut in with your books. Half the time when you are out you just wish you were at home reading with a bottle of wine. But then I guess a lifetime of that and you die alone with the cats. OR find somebody that just wants to stay at home and read with you. I may be wishful thinking.

One more month and its back to school here, which sounds good to me. It’s like a ghost town around here, and although I don’t need the constant flow of people that happens at the public, I do enjoy the bustle of a new semester, and new students that breathe some life into this old re-purposed Alpha Beta. But there’s still 3 more weeks in August to get through before that happens. Fall weather is something to look forward to as well but that doesn’t happen here in So Cal until November. (grumble) Tomorrow I’m going to meet with the archivist and talk about possibly putting together a digital collection for our 125th anniversary as a college. I’m excited because it’s something I worked on pretty hard last year for the history wall that never really got anywhere, so it won’t be much work to put together at all it’s mostly done. Plus it’s a digital collection, my child, something I created for once, I guess it’s not the next great American novel, but it’s a start. Still trying my hand at being more creative lately, but I’m lacking a muse, or creative partner. How do you find one of these? Craigslist? Instagram? What about that saying.. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear… I’m pretty sure I’m ready, and figuring out that creativity doesn’t live in a drunken vacuum, as I previously believed.

Librarians as Doormats

Yesterday I worked 9 hours on reference, 4 in tech and 5 at the information desk at the public lib. Honestly, today my brain and nerves are shot. It’s hard to be nice for so long. I mean I like to think that I’m naturally a nice person, but after this amount of time, it’s just hard. OH and I also made about 20 scripted phone calls to let kids know that they were a winner in our summer reading program raffle. Congrats you have won a ____. It gets hard to leave voicemail after voicemail and eventually I was saying come GAIN your prize instead of claim. I don’t know if gaining a prize is even a thing? There’s got to be a better way to do this, making 100 calls, probably about 85% of them being voicemail isn’t very time efficient at an already short staffed and super busy library…But I digress..

Today hasn’t been so swell either. My patience is at about 2% and I literally almost said some rude things to a patron who didn’t understand WHY I couldn’t just make her an appointment for a passport when I already explained our procedure to leave a message on the voicemail line and she would get a call back within 24 hours. WHY would she have to wait like everybody else?  WHY wasn’t a library staff assisting her immediately with her passport application process, since it was clearly the most important? WHY Couldn’t she just butt in right now since she was being rude enough, and bypass all the polite people that actually just waited their turn to get a call back?? I almost asked her WHY didn’t she know how to inquire about things politely? WHY had nobody taught her any manners or demonstrated for her know how to talk to people she was asking help from? I think my coworker picked up on my frustration and came over to save the day. I owe her some chocolate I really do. And, of course, back to about 20 more scripted phone calls while on desk in between helping people.

Sometimes I feel that I’m just at a point of complete deflation with my patience with people. I don’t know if any sort of long vacation, or tropical drink, or good amount of awesome patrons can wash this bad taste out of my mouth. I’m pretty sure I’m just not cut out for public librarianship. I’m sick of the people who don’t help themselves. I’m sick of entitlement, and lack of manners. I’m sick of the weird creepy dudes that know my name and come in the tech center. There’s one that just walked in now, like right now. He used to come all the time to the other branch, he’s an architect who sometimes prints stuff out. I have no idea how he has a job and deals with people in the real world. Half the time he’s on the computers he’s cursing to himself, and mumbling.  He knows all the women who work here by name, and for a long time when I saw him regularly, would deal with him cursing and being continually upset because the server on his weird Russian mail order bride website would not be working. He had some girlfriend in Russia that he was sending money to, Svetlana I think really that was her name. Then another time he went on a loud tirade to me once about how he lives with his brother and his brother’s wife is a you know what and won’t let him use their computers because she thinks these weird sites he goes to are pornographic. Then proceeded to tell me all about all the fat women he sees everywhere here and how it’s disgusting and fat women are disgusting, (mind you he was talking really loudly in a quiet room and I was hoping somebody would get up and kick his ass, but it didn’t happen) then asks about my husband and if he lets me go out on my own. I just tell him my husband is large, and likes firearms. NO really, I did tell him this. Even though my husband is imaginary and if I WAS married to anybody they certainly wouldn’t like guns.

There are so many ways to live. I get that. We all have bad days. I get that. There are a billion people with a billion different upbringings, reasons why, stories, lessons, social and mental impediments, etc. But I just don’t know if I am tolerant enough or strong enough to take it much longer. I don’t like what it turns me into sometimes, and that is the scary part. I don’t get much respect from people in the public realm. It’s sad but true that most of the time I feel much like a doormat, a sad used up doormat.

On the plus side of things. Here is something I didn’t know existed. A nose aerobics basketball toy. I got to inform 5 very excited kids they will be the proud owner of these bad boys. I wish there was an extra one I could steal. I just want to watch somebody use one of these in real life.. Excuse the YES’s, this was from a snapchat..

aerobics

You look like a Librarian..

Is it the glasses? It’s the glasses huh? I assure you I have always kind of just looked this way, no matter what job I have. I’m not trying to look much like anything. I woke up this way?  Maybe I look like a librarian because I am sitting at the reference desk? Or grabbing a book for a young child about Newts? I don’t know what it is. But I am enjoying this whole “hipster librarian” idea. My friend sent me this meme the other day and I was ROTFL. Yes I am using that acronym. Despite my age I am fluent in meme, and emoji, and shortening every phrase into acronyms. So there.

elderly

 

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.