Librarians gone wild

Summer is over. It came and went faster than any summer before it, and I have no idea why. Maybe it was the prep and stress for the job interviews that I endured that ended up ultimately going nowhere, the vacation to Oregon, or just the fact that the older you get the faster time slips by you. Whatever the cause, it’s a fact that the kids went back to school for the public last week, and at the U, move in day is tomorrow for the new freshmen.

I won’t get too nostalgic on you, even though fall IS my favorite season (if you can call them that here in So. Cal).  It’s a new beginning, leaves fall from trees and shed their skin, and all that poetic jazz. There are new students to teach, and new books to read. It’s all so furiously paced and you can see it in the stress on the parent’s faces of both the young ones and older ones alike.

Not much has been going on, just letting go of the summer feels and getting ready to do instruction for subjects that I have never taught before. History and Anthropology are the 2 so far to prep for this week at the U, and here at the public answering 1,236 calls about the stupid study rooms, or fishing out the oh so sought after “Battle of the Books” titles.

I had been struggling lately to think of a topic to come back and blog about, when I remembered a run in I had with a friend’s father the other day. I’ve known this friend and her father for over half my life, and I ran into him while having lunch one day with my bestie who also knows them well and she’s way friendlier than me so we stopped to say hello. It was the normal small talk pattern. How are you? Fine. What have you been doing? Working. You seeing anybody? No. After we got all that out of the way, he said something that I can’t remember exactly, but it went something like this:

You know, librarians are all supposed to be quiet and mild mannered, but from what I hear you are actually the loudest most wild of the bunch. Is that true?

I thought for a moment. Well, I am pretty loud. I love to talk, and I have been shushed by patrons before, multiple times. But wild? Am I wild? What kind of weird fetish-y style comment is that? What did he mean by wild??  Does this mean I am promiscuous and impulsive, that I stay up all night taking tequila shots, dance on tables, and don’t pay my electric bill? I don’t think he meant it in any harm by the comment, but it definitely made me think for moment. I ended up telling him, yeah, I think I found my people. As I walked away I wasn’t even sure what I meant by that.

What does “wild” mean, Webster’s has quite a few definitions that pertain to forest life, or playing cards, but the ones I will take into consideration here are:

b:  marked by turbulent agitation :  stormy a wild night

c:  going beyond normal or conventional bounds :  fantastic wild ideasalso :  sensational

d:  indicative of strong passion, desire, or emotion

(Webster’s, n.d.)

It made me think even further about this stereotype and where it came from. For those of you that don’t know, which is probably anybody NOT in the field that may read this, is that the American Library Association (ALA) has a bill of rights that most librarians use as pillars to the profession:

This Library Bill of rights from the ALA can be found here:

So where does the idea of the wild librarian stem from? Could it be found in the pillars of our profession? Is it the fact that we challenge censorship and believe in upholding the first amendment? Or is it because we believe in equal access to information and resources despite race, origin, sex, or socioeconomic status? Maybe it’s the promotion of free idea sharing, free resource sharing, and advancement of everybody in society as equals? Is that such a wild concept?

I can see how these ideals could be considered wild, but only in some sad skewed way to those who feel threatened by it. Access to information and resources coupled with literacy skills will always be important tools for the advancement of equality in society. We have come so far from the days when a large amount of the population was illiterate and only the wealthy had access to and control of books and other types of information. I am so thankful for that and the fact that this profession, and these ideals exist.

So, if that means I’m wild. Then yeah, I guess I am one of the wild ones.

 

Wild [Def. 3b-d]. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster Online. In Merriam-Webster. Retrieved August 22, 2017, from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wild

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Librarian Friend OR Librarian Liability?

I have a lot of problems with things, rules, structures, hierarchies, authorities, etc. It’s not that I’m an anarchist or anything, there needs to be some sort of organizing factor to people, some baseline stuff so we don’t just rape plunder and pillage like the days of the pirates. But sometimes in libraries or more generally in life these rules/policies/structures don’t make sense to me, so I step around them. Why? Because I can, and because I think that helping people connect with the information they need to better themselves is my first priority here at the library. Connecting with people and helping them better themselves, in general, seems like an awfully sound purpose in life overall. The city government I work for may not think so, they have bigger interest in mind, themselves and their liabilities, etc. The eternal clashing of humanity vs. law suits vs. government vs. corporate interest, I feel this SO MUCH these days.

Today a very polite young man approached me rather shyly at the ref desk and asked if we give all kinds of information, not just about books. I said, sure, try me. He asked me if emancipated minors were able to get their Driver’s License. I said it was a good question, and we found the info on the DMV website on what he needed to have in order to get a license under 18 w/o the parental consent.

I dug a little deeper here to make sure everything was OK, like the stuff at home wasn’t getting too dark. He opened up a little bit, about his parents not allowing him certain freedoms, him paying them for things and not getting them, etc. Another case of teenage angst, so familiar.

Either way this boy was in a pickle. He needed to go online to search for and apply to jobs. Something that would be able to move him forward in life, problem is, he had a juvenile card that didn’t have internet access and the only way to add it would be through his parents, who he currently wasn’t getting along with. I thought for him, can you go to your schools library? YES, but its summer and he isn’t back until end of August. Sometimes academic libraries have free internet access, but he doesn’t have a car or a way to get around easily. Dang.

So, for today, I logged him into the computer using my card and let him search for jobs online. Was this against “policy”? Yes. Could I get fired for this? Um, maybe? (More likely a good write up, gee I hope my bosses don’t read this blog)  But do I stand by my choice? Yes. We make judgment calls every day here at the public, it’s all very situational to me. This kid had nobody to talk to about what he was going through and no way to access the tools he needed. I told him that I wasn’t supposed to be doing it, and that others would probably not let him, but he should try to make friends and see if they would too. I told him that life is all about having friends, and these friends will get you through the hard times when you feel like you are struggling and feel blocked in or trapped. I wanted to be a friend to him. I suppose I did give him some advice as well, about the fact that he was 16, so two years wasn’t too far away and that he was almost there anyways, and then some tips on where to look for jobs.

I was able to help him out today, at least in a very minor way. He left me a copy of his resume, and I’ll see if there is any place I could think of that may be good for him to apply. What really got me at the end was the note he left me. It reminded me why I stick my neck out to help people help themselves when they are in honest need of it, and why I will never stop doing so.

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Now, I do think that he has a lot to learn and some of that may come the hard way if he does go the emancipation route. I don’t think we will be roommates (that was adorbs), BUT sometimes it really can feel like you can’t find a friend, and man is that a feeling I know all too well. It’s a big world out there full of no and can’t and won’t and sorry I’d like to… but. It can make you feel really small.

How is this relevant to my life this week? Well, I ran into an instance where I asked my supervisor at the city for a reference for a job application. She denied it, saying she had to forward the request to HR and they would give a letter only stating that I was employed there and my dates of employment, nothing to the effect of my character. Basically, meaning that now my app would be incomplete, so I’ll have to explain myself on that one and find another reference. I’m very naive about these kind of things, I thought the point WAS to get references from your supervisors, but “city policy” won’t allow it? What if this were my only job, how else would I be able to get references to apply anywhere else? Well, it’s also up to the individual, she could have answered the email and nobody would have known, but I guess it just wasn’t worth it to her and I suppose. Which, again is fine, some people are policy followers and these kinds of things make sense to them.

I talk with my trusted friends here, and they tell me they have all been there before, it’s not news to them. I just wish we could change from a culture of being so afraid of one another and being so worried about covering our own behinds, to one that goes out of our way to help one another and not always assumes the worst. It just feels like butting up against a rock and a hard place in terms of change, but maybe slowly it will happen.

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.

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.