Sunday, September 11, 2011

Job Satisfaction + New Job

I think it's a safe assumption to make on this blog that we all got into librarianship out of a love for the work, and not out of a love of money or fame or something. Unless some of you are rich and famous librarians and are holding out on me. Either way, I went to library school because I like libraries and wanted to work in one. Or, at least, I wanted to do something librarianship-related, in a library or outside of one. I never went in thinking "I will only work in a traditional library!"

Unfortunately, a combination of the bad economy, my self/relationship-imposed geographic limitations, and my relative inexperience as a librarian made it incredibly difficult to find any sort of meaningful work. As you know, I ended up working in customer service at a company that sells library supplies. As many of you also know, I have not enjoyed my time in customer service, for a number of reasons. The work is frequently dull, repetitive, frustrating, and unrewarding, and although our customers are librarians and therefore usually great, I frequently deal with them when they are frustrated or angry. It's the first time in my life I have ever been really dissatisfied with the work I was doing, and it has been hard on me.

The last few weeks I have been helping our international sales department, because I speak Spanish (not fluently) and the native-speaker who is a pillar of the department was out of the office. I was essentially doing a chunk of her job on top of mine, which was overwhelming (and probably how it feels for a lot of librarians who are dealing with layoffs of coworkers) but much more rewarding. The work was more interesting, and I was dealing with customers all over the world. I also got to use my Spanish several times a day. I'm back to doing my regular work for a little while now, but I realized how much I miss Spanish and will be making sure to stay in practice, since it apparently can come in handy.

But the best and biggest change is that I will finally be moving to a new department! I applied and interviewed for another position when it was posted, and I accepted it on Friday. Starting soon, I will be an Associate Product Manger for archival products. My new position will involve a lot of marketing, which I have less experience with, but I think it will be a good thing to learn. There are definitely some drawbacks to getting this job as opposed to some of the others I have tried for outside of the company, but there are a heck of a lot of positives. I am hoping that the biggest positive will be a dramatic increase in my job satisfaction, since I had strongly felt the lack of that in my life. I will be working with a team of people who seem absolutely amazing, and I will be doing more direct work with archival materials than before, which I think will be interesting and will serve me well in my career.

I am still interested in finding a place where I can have my relationship, meaningful work, and more sunshine than I get now, but for the meantime, this change seems good and much-needed.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Love, Kids, and Life in a Half-Changed World

Inspired by Amanda’s booktalk on Cinderella Ate My Daughter (and the long wait to get it from my public library) I placed a hold on an earlier Peggy Orenstein book – Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Love, Kids, and Life in a Half-Changed World. [Feminist side note: There is relatively little about sex in this book, certainly much less than the other topics in the subtitle, and yet it gets top billing. Marketing? I highly doubt Ms. Orenstein chose that...] I have had such a reaction to this book that I thought it merited more than a booktalk. I feel like I’ve been living a booktalk of it since I started it, because it’s all I want to talk about. Orenstein released her breakout bestseller Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap (which SPL doesn’t own a copy of?!) in 1994 and followed with Flux in 2000. It is divided into sections that loosely follow the chronology of women’s lives: The Promise (twenties), The Crunch (thirties), and Reconsiderations (forties and beyond). Throughout each section the author recounts her interviews with hundreds of women at various points of life on their differing decisions about career, marriage, childbearing and childrearing. She mostly interviews them in small groups of friends, which leads to interesting revelations about what they regularly share with one another and what they don’t. She also chooses “representative” individuals for more in depth study and follows them for extended periods of time. The crux of what Orenstein is exploring is the “you can do anything you want” mantra that girls of our generation of were fed, seemingly from birth – I know I heard it constantly and I know I believed it, or at least I thought I did. She explores the degree to which women were sold a bill of goods by this – citing the income gap, the glass ceiling, the stigma of being a working mother, and especially the guilt felt by women who try to “have it all.” Reading women’s feelings, in their own words, as they moved through the stage of life I’m in and into the next ones has truly given me a host of reactions and emotions. I saw women like me, struggling with the same questions and worries and also women in lives I would never choose. While she explores the issues I noted above, this book is not a complaint or a list of reasons being a woman is unfair – she places the women in the context of their choices, not their circumstances (for the most part) and allows them to talk freely about the things they can control and the things they can’t.

The women who most interested me were women in the “Promise” years who had chosen to put careers first, a group I would consider myself in, at least marginally, but they made it clear that they would NOT consider us peers at all. These corporate women would consider all of us librarians “first grade teachers,” a catch-all for women in careers that were more about contributing to the “greater good” than making money. The implication for these women was that these jobs could be done part-time after kids and were a place-filler, rather than a career. I don’t feel like that about my job at all, but I had to acknowledge that I made the decision to become a librarian because I loved it, not because it would be lucrative. I never imagined that I would have to be the sole breadwinner for a family and so in that way my choice was a gendered one. I didn’t like being lumped in with a group that wasn’t career-driven, but this was just one of the many voices in Flux that made me really question my choices and my assumptions.

I’m not sure if this is just hitting me at the right time or if this book is really full of the wisdom of the ages, but I highly recommend that you all read it and tell me. It has really been a spring board for my own thoughts about what I’ve done so far and what I truly want. I know that it will stick with me as I move forward and it has given me a little more freedom about what might constitute a successful life.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How Reading Helps

Two weeks ago I recognized one of the university's student tour guides standing at our Information Desk while I was walking out of the building. I stopped by to say 'hi' and she told me she was working on a research paper for her History of Photography class. Right away I thought "that is super cool" and I asked her what she was writing about.

"Well, this guy named Robert Mapplethorpe? I don't know anything about him and I need one more source and then I'll start writing."

Wow-za. Perfect! I read Just Kids awhile ago and loved it. I asked her if she had heard of the book, to which she replied no. In a very serendipitous moment, the book was on display on a nearby shelf. I handed it to her and told her about his time as an artist in NYC, his relationship with Patti as his muse, his yearning to be in Andy Warhol's inner circle, and about how he died. I told her to look through the book to get an idea of who he was as a person and how that shaped his life as an artist. I may or may not have gotten overly excited but maybe I inspired her to look forward to writing about such a fascinating artist. She checked out the book (and some others) and was on her way.

Fast-forward to today. During a fire drill I saw her and asked her how her paper went. She said it was hard to write (it was due at midnight that same day) but her professor gave her kudos for including the aspects of his life that I told her would be in Just Kids. She got a 98%! I felt so good that I could be Ms. Eager Librarian to help a student. I wouldn't have known anything about Robert Mapplethorpe without reading the book either, which tells me it's a good idea to have a steady reading habit as a librarian. I still cannot believe that the stars aligned that day and I was able to use my knowledge to help someone. Don't we all kind of want to be walking encyclopedias? Or is that just me?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Talk: Cinderella Ate My Daughter

At some point during grad school, my nascent feminist tendencies took off and bloomed. Since I hadn't really read anything about gender issues or feminism before, I have really been enjoying reading some books in a totally new topic area.

I first noticed Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein at a Barnes & Noble but, since I have I-Spend-Too-Much-On-Books-Already-itis, I didn't pick it up. I requested it from the library instead! And I waited forever - apparently it is a hot read.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter is basically a crash course in, as the cover says, "girly-girl culture" and how it's affecting both girls and boys even into adulthood. It is definitely an overview book as opposed to a deep, academic study of a particular aspect of gender, but that is really ok. Some of it was really instructional, some of it I already knew, and some of it scared the ever living heck out of me. I particularly liked that Orenstein gave us anecdotes about her own experiences raising a daughter, because the book is they type of book that can benefit from anecdotal evidence without losing credibility. Peggy Orenstein writes mostly about girls and their development, but I haven't read anything else by her. What this book really prompted me to do was request the entire sources list from the library system (library plug - we have nearly all of them!)

I strongly recommend this for someone who is interested in gender roles, or anyone who plans on having children and isn't really satisfied with the options for girls. It's an easy read but very good.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Group Work is Rewarding?

In library school they always made us do a ton of group work in a slightly desperate attempt to teach us how to collaborate. This will mimic the real world, they said. Once you get your job, you’ll have to collaborate with your co-workers on projects. Why not start that now?

Well, for the most part, they were right, but for some reason “group work” seems even worse in the workforce than it did in grad school. I think that group work in grad school is tolerable because there is a pretty good chance you’ll get at least one team member who is on the ball. Also, the group work suffering ends at an appointed time (i.e. the end of the semester), so the diligent students feel free to work harder on their projects because there is an end in sight.

Reasons I am thinking about this: my library is currently in the middle of a massive shifting project. (At least it feels massive. There are only 2 floors to my library, so it’s not as bad as it could be.) In the midst of this project, the rest of the librarians realize that the library has NEVER been weeded. Ever. Since its inception. Cue massive weeding project. And now we arrive at my group work frustration.

Once everyone realized that project (i.e. the cataloger) participants were not pleased with the direction of the project, we had a big brainstorm group meeting to communicate our goals and plans accurately to each other (which should have happened in the beginning). Communication is not a strong point of my library, primarily because most of the employees have been there a while and understand how operations are supposed to work. We all collectively decided in this meeting that we would weed certain areas per our subject “specialties”, write the faculty for approval, and then remove the books. Weeding is a collaborative process: librarians, the cataloger, and faculty are all involved. Our workflow is

Librarian analyzes / weeds books >> Faculty approve or disapprove selections >> Books go to the cataloger for removal and disposal

The workflow works pretty well, except for the fact that it is a funnel: there are multiple librarians and faculty and one cataloger (who refuses to ask for help). Furthermore, the cataloger feels that it is her job to re-evaluate our weeds. I can’t quite figure out what bothers me about this. Is it because my authority and experience is questioned? Is it because this slows the process down immensely as our cataloger spends 5 minutes on every book? Is it because I feel that she is an interfering busybody? Is it her tone when she questions my weeds? I don’t know. I also realize that her input is important because she has been at the library so long, and she knows the collection really well. She doesn’t really have a firm grasp on how students use our resources, but she knows what books we have, why we have them, where they came from, what courses they support, and so on.

My boss has stressed over and over how weeding is a collaborative process. My boss doesn’t want to get involved in what I am sure she views as territorial scuffles. Meanwhile, the other librarians and I are getting very frustrated. In group work, everyone has a part of the project to complete. If someone doesn’t do their part, the other group members pick up the slack. Currently, we are all doing our work, so there is no need for others to pick up the slack. There is also a person at the end of the project who makes sure that everything is cohesive. It just burns my biscuit that the cataloger is that end of project person, and she doesn’t seem to share the same vision of an academic library as the librarians.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Game Face

One of the great challenges of life is maturing enough to be able to recognize that sometimes life requires us to remain calm and fully utilize our poker faces. Probably the greatest skill I've gained as a working adult is the ability to detach my emotions from the tasks I must complete as an employee and supervisor. Though I am passionate about many things in my personal life, I've had to realize that being ruled by passion at work almost never ends well.

Think about people you work with: consider the person who cries a lot or is angry a lot or is so mercurial they are difficult to interact with. Now consider the person who is able to talk reasonably about problems or calmly troubleshoot an emergency. I strive to be someone who is excited about making things better but able to temper that excitement with rationality and flexibility.

But I still want to tell the patron who told me to "go back to Hong Kong" to go fuck herself.

Not only am I a branch manager, but today I am the "librarian in charge." The LIC is the highest ranking staff member on duty on Sundays when most of our working staff is part-time. My staff can and should notify me about problems as they arise, especially when I am on-duty with them.

Today we had a female loudly complaining about asthma being contagious and asking that the man on the computer across from her be removed from the library because he was using an inhaler. Her computer session expired and she refused to relinquish her machine to the next customer. I overheard her call one of my librarians a bitch and walked over with the security officer as she continued to argue with another librarian. I introduced myself and asked if there was a problem; she asked me if I was "in her country" and continued to argue. As I more firmly tried to stop her tirade she finally told me to "go back to Hong Kong," at which point I advised her that the library would not tolerate disparaging racial comments or name-calling and that it was time for her to leave. She was escorted out by our security officer, promising that we would all be in trouble for her treatment. "What is your name again?" she asked. I repeated my name and position as branch manager, to which she replied "not for long."

All this to say, while on the inside I wanted to physically and verbally unleash the fury on this woman, common sense and my position held me back. This may be the hardest part of working with the public: the situations where people are entirely rude, ignorant, hateful and, oftentimes, smelly. I hate to admit that people are sometimes willfully ignorant, incredibly spiteful or mentally unstable - sometimes all three - and that no amount of calm lecturing or kind accommodation will change them. 

I can see that it's taken me this long to become a person who can handle these situations in a way that won't get my contract terminated. My younger self would've engaged in an argument or reacted in kind when put in this situation. I'm not sure there are any books or workshops to aid in this; my education has certainly been trial and error to create the "game face" I'm able to put on now.

But just for the record, I'm Korean NOT CHINESE!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

When in trouble or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout?

It's been a while since I've posted to this blog with anything even remotely interesting. For that, I apologize. I hope you've at least enjoyed my bizarre non-fiction book talks.

I've recently started a new position as branch manager of a medium/large city library. My thinking is that this experience, which I'm loving so far, will provide a lot of fodder for posts.

For right now, I'd like to talk about something they definitely don't teach you in library school: the practical realities of library facilities maintenance. This topic includes things like "negotiating maintenance contracts for your library" and "what to do when your governing body doesn't pay for pest control." I'd like to talk briefly about something that is beginning to impact every other day of my life: library fire and burglar alarms.

My library system operates buildings that are hybrids of municipal space and system function. The buildings we have are owned and maintained by the city of location and then the library provides the people and collection; they provide the building and we make it a library. There is a lot of what I consider hair-splitting, which forces us to differentiate between what is furniture and what is equipment - the city is supposed to purchase furniture and we can provide equipment as needed. I'm sure I'll talk more about this later.

All that being said, my building houses not only our city library, but also the library system's headquarters. In the day-to-day shakedown, most of the building maintenance facilitation falls on the side of the branch and not the administration. We are large enough to have a burglar alarm and of course we're required to have a fire alarm system. During my first couple of days I was given the appropriate keys and codes and shown where all the alarm panels are located throughout the building. I also had to contact the alarm company and make sure the contact lists were updated and in the appropriate order: 1) city maintenance, 2) branch manager and 3) a dept head. It's a good thing I did that pretty quickly because it seems like we've had issues every week.

The fire panel buzzes on occasion, indicating everything from low batteries to test failures through a variety of high-pitched and annoying noises in several different syncopations. My first week it was a low battery, indicated by a sustained, steady beeping. Yesterday it was a different part of the panel, indicated by a high pitched whine throughout the ENTIRE DAY. We also think we've had some homeless people hiding in the building to sleep in the air conditioning and then leaving and triggering the alarm as they go.

Most of the time, the company calls me first and then I have to decide whether or not to dispatch the police. It's a challenge to find that balance between making sure everything is secured and not annoying the police by dispatching them every night. Over the fourth of July weekend I got about six calls, which is what tipped us off about the homeless situation (which has apparently happened before).

All this to say, it's a lot of responsibility and another way that salaried library staff - especially those higher up the ladder - are always on call. I'm not complaining; I don't live too far away and if I respond I know it will be done correctly. However, it is something I hadn't really thought about that much. Here is some advice:
  1. When you start a new job, take the time right off the bat to enter your library's contact numbers and phone tree into your cell phone. This should include your immediate supervisor(s) and any staff that you directly supervise.
  2. Enter the contact number for your alarm company into your cell phone. I have mine entered as ALARM CO and include all of my passwords. I've also assigned them a really loud (annoying) ringtone so I'm less likely to miss their call.
  3. There are probably call sheets and specific instructions for emergency situations. Print off several copies and put them where they can be found in your office and at home. These will help in case you forget to enter someone's number in your phone or if you forget who you are responsible for calling. If your organization doesn't have something like this, take the initiative to suggest/create one. They are great for emergency closings, bad weather and a myriad of other things that can come up.
  4. Make sure your alarm company has updated information for your building/organization. Turnover can often leave former employees on contact lists long after they are gone. Some of the files I just updated still had information from three branch managers ago!
  5. Make it a point to review contact information for staff and alarm systems on a regular basis. Staff should probably be done every six months and alarm stuff will probably be OK if checked annually.
I haven't had any calls today and I'm considering that a win!

Book Talk: The Emperor of All Maladies

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer is an engrossing profile of one of humanity's greatest and most indefatigable killers. The idea is that profiling cancer is much like profiling a person because of its mercurial and elusive nature; it has evolved and entrenched itself into the international medical psyche and spilled over into the everyday lives of people. Siddhartha Mukherjee's work is personal, passionate and accessible to all readers. In my humble opinion it should be required reading for every person in the medical field and perhaps every person period. Don't worry if you are intimidated or even uninterested in this type of book - I guarantee it will capture your attention and not let go.

Friday, June 17, 2011

book talk: Little Princes

Little Princes by Conor Grennan is a memoir about volunteering at an orphanage in Nepal. Having a desire to travel the world, Grennan set off for Nepal not knowing what to expect. Right off the bat his honesty about his lack of knowledge about Nepal and being around children sets the reader up to learn along with him. This memoir has it all: adventure, suspense, humor (sarcasm, slapstick, etc.) and even some looove. I learned about Nepal's history, culture, and society as Grennan went above and beyond my expectations. Every single page was a delight - and I turned those pages fast! Grennan founded Next Generation Nepal which focuses on reconnecting victims of child trafficking to their families.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

book talk: The Paris Wife

This book traces Ernest Hemingway's first marriage from the perspective of his wife, Hadley, when they live together in Paris. As "the Paris wife," Hadley is swept up Ernest's early literary successes and failures, and the Hemingways cross paths with prominent expats in Paris like Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound.

The beautifully written story really brings these historical figures to life and it would be a great book suggestion for someone who loves Hemingway's work or the Paris salon scene, as well as non-fiction readers who are curious about a fictionalized account of post-WWI culture in Europe, bullfighting, or misogynistic but sympathetic literary giants.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


I was checking the links on my libguides when I came across the front page for MedlinePlus, a "Service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine." I was more than a little disturbed by the decision to list "Pregnancy and Reproduction" as one of their "Disorders and Conditions" - right between "Poisoning" and "Substance Abuse." Now, I'm not a huge fan of the idea of giving birth, but I think that this grouping is problematic. Wouldn't it make more sense to "catalog" pregnancy with "Health and Wellness" or even as a subcategory under "Women"? I'm not sure if an actual librarian had anything to do with this, but I hope not.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Talk: Decision Points

Decision Points is the autobiography of George W. Bush's two terms. He highlights major decisions he had to make and tackles them categorically, not necessarily chronologically. It's an interesting read for anyone, no matter your political leanings. I found his references to books and films throughout the book really interesting - he read a lot of presidential biographies that I've been wanting to read, including Theodore Rex and several works by David McCullough.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Shameless Self-Promotion Unrelated to Librarianship

Those readers who have talked to me in person might know I have a younger sister who I think is pretty much the best thing ever. As it turns out, we have both been doing a lot of baking lately, since we both love us some desserts. We were discussing the need to share recipes, and we abandoned a Google document in favor of a blog. Currently there are literally only two followers - the two of us - but we expect it to become the Next Big Thing. Or not. Either way, we would love to have an audience besides just us, so if you want to see what we're up to, visit The Sisters Baker. Thanks!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Renovation Woes

Not as cool as envelopes full of odd substances, but I also actually have a story to tell about my library! 

Recently, my library underwent a large renovation (thank you, state grants!).  The results were stunning.  We now have a beautiful, bright blue carpet and shiny new desk in the children’s room, a fresh coat of paint in all the rooms, a large new adult/YA reference desk, and catalog stations that don’t jut into the aisles.  The library no longer looks like a tribute to the early seventies, which is wonderful.  Once the shelves and furniture come in, we will have a YA section where they can congregate (and all their books will be on shelves rather than stacks on the floor.  I’m sure they will appreciate that), along with a whole new reference section.  Unfortunately, the actual renovation was made to be much more annoying and frustrating than it needed to be. 
Among other things, the entire library was re-carpeted and repainted, which meant that a good quarter of the collection had to be moved multiple times throughout the renovation.  Why multiple?  We have limited space to put things and no off-site storage areas where we could put things for the week of carpeting/painting.  So, we moved them to the un-carpeted foyer and meeting room until we ran out of room, then we had to put materials on the carpeted areas, only to have to move them again at a later point, when a different area had been carpeted.  Yep.  We did move some books more than five times before they were put back on the shelves.  Our entire dvd and cd collections were moved about four times each, although, thankfully, those could be moved on the shelves.  Needless to say, this alone was a complicated issue.  Only books on bottom shelves and the shelves attached to the wall (or with fixtures attached to the wall) had to be moved—the rest were covered in plastic in a sad attempt to keep dust out.  This meant that in the children’s room alone, we would have items like Bar-Bas next to Ben-Bep on the floor.  In theory, anyway. 
In addition, we allowed people to take out double the materials in the week before the library closed for renovation.  While this did mean that we had to move a lot less, we also had little idea how much space to leave for those missing books when placing items back on the shelves.  As a result, we spent a good deal of time shifting materials to ensure they all fit or to make up for large gaps for weeks afterwards.  In fact, there are some areas where this is still occurring, two months after the library’s reopening.      
We did many things right, and many things could not be made simpler due to the time constraints (Two weeks to move an entire collection multiple times while working around several work crews?  Ew).  We also did many things wrong or in ways that could have been easily simplified or streamlined.   
Mostly, our problem is that we did not plan ahead enough.  Oh sure, we knew what color the walls were to be and when the painters were coming several weeks in advance.  We, however, did not know where we would place the new reference desks (or what colors/styles we wanted them), where we wanted the dvd collection to permanently go, what books we were going to move where during the renovation, or even what parts of the collection we had to move in the first place.  The results of this?
-We didn’t plan for our staff needs.  No one thought about the fact that over half our staff is over the age of 50 and that they cannot move all that much and certainly not for hours at a time or that they would simply refuse to move anything on the unfair theory that that is what pages are for.  It also never occurred to many that the younger staff and part-time pages couldn’t be counted on to pick up all the slack-they also cannot move books for eight hours a day no matter what anyone says about their young bones.  At the same time, actual skills were overlooked.  Someone has experience moving large objects with a dolly?  She can’t do that here!  She’s five feet tall; she’ll clearly die in the process!  What do you mean, the reference librarian knows how to do wiring?  She can’t place the internet router; that’s what the overworked, frazzled maintenance guy is for.  We now just have to wait three hours while he finishes those other twelve things.    Our single male page and the maintenance guy were seriously overworked since they often ended up being the only ones tall/strong enough to reach certain items.  Ladders.  Ladders would have been good.
-We haphazardly moved our collection.  While  Juv. Fiction Bar-Bas should have gone next to Ben-Bep, it often went next to adult mysteries A-B or the 300s of the reference collection.  This was horrendously confusing when replacing the collection and there were several times we thought we had lost entire shelves of books. 
-We wasted a lot of time arguing over mundane things, like desk colors, when we should have been moving things so the workers could paint the walls or deciding what to do about the fact that we had literally run out of space to put things.
-We moved the dvd and cd collections multiple times before deciding where to keep them.  Those shelves are heavy, just so you know.
-There was no main supervision for any given section, creating confusion and often frustration as YA librarians and pages tried to, for example, guess how many shelves adult audio book collection once took up.
-We did not ask for physical samples of the carpet and desk materials ahead of time despite the emphasis given to the coloring palette.  We now have an adult carpet that looks grey rather than the color we thought we were getting, and we ultimately changed the panels behind the reference desk after it was decided that they looked depressing (they did, but that’s beside the point).   
-We did not think about how we were going to have to take the books off of the many tables and long rows on the floor we placed them on.  So, we put them on backwards, essentially.  Instead of making it so that we could take off the closest things to us first, we did the opposite.  As such, we had to reach all the way to the back of tables, or 3 feet deep in the foyer, to get the first books we needed to put back on the shelves.  I cannot tell you how fun it was to stand in a four-inch gap, contort myself under a table, and pass a two-foot stack of reference books over to someone who was standing several feet away.  I’m surprised there were no major injuries.
-There was no time management.  We barely finished in time to open the doors.  The YA and reference collections lived in the meeting room for a week after we opened; we didn’t have internet for a day (Want to anger patrons?  Don’t have internet when you reopen from a major renovation.  Then, tell them that the book they want is still in the meeting room and you’ll have to go get it for them). 

We failed to label many things, or anything.  Sure, this can count under the planning heading, but it was enough of an issue in this case to get its own category.
-We did not label the books uniformly as we moved them.  Everyone had their own system, and if someone wasn’t there to tell what ‘3rd shelf over, children’s room R-Re’ meant, it became a guessing game that no one ever won.
-We also did not label the shelving units as we took them down and, rather than placing them in neat piles according to where they came from, we put them wherever we could find room.  I’m sure you can see the problems here.  Some of the shelves were slightly different sizes and there were two incompatible shelving unit types painted the same color. 
-We also did not teach everyone how to put the shelves in properly, or that there were different types.  A lot of time was wasted trying to bang in shelves that wouldn’t fit and even more trying to teach each person how to put them together as they wandered over.  Had they been labeled, we wouldn’t have had to explain so many little things, like that the number of holes makes a big difference, or that no, that shelf, will actually not go with those shelf-hangers. 
So, what should you do if your library needs to be renovated?  Plan ahead and label everything.  Everything.  The shelves, the screws, the books, the book carts (this will deter fighting later, trust me on this), the cleaning supplies, the pages.  Don’t do it in the middle of winter if you live somewhere with snow—the ability to temporarily put things outside or to wash the shelves with a garden hose would have been wonderful.  Really don’t do this right before tax season; people will try to get in the library ‘just for one form’ no matter how big you make the ‘SORRY-WE ARE CLOSED FOR RENOVATION’ signs.  In retrospect, it is all obvious, but, of course, it always is.     

Monday, May 9, 2011

Drama at the Vendor

Sometimes, I feel a little jealous of all the blogging librarians in these parts who have library things to blog about. Today though, I have some drama to share!

A few hours ago my supervisor came around, urgently informing us all to log off our phones and go downstairs. I thought it was another corporate announcement (oh please don't be laying us off!) but grabbed my purse just in case.

If only I had grabbed my lunch too. Turns out, there was a suspicious envelope! With a suspicious substance! As the customer service department sat in the cafeteria and speculated, the cops showed up, and then the fire department, and as we were informed, the postal inspector and the FBI too. Mostly, we just sat there and waited (and ate things from the vending machines, my poor diet) until we were eventually allowed back upstairs. It would have been a better break if I hadn't carpooled to work with the guy friend, because he had the car - I was stuck! They weren't even letting people down the road by case it was terribly toxic, I guess? It it were so toxic that the hotdog truck couldn't drive past us (there is a hotdog warehouse by us!) we were all toast.

Luckily, and unsurprisingly, it turned out to not be anthrax or anything more dangerous than a non-toxic cleaning substance. It was accompanied by a "threatening note." I'm surprised (but not really) that someone would want to send fake-anthrax and a threat to a library supply vendor. I think the worst thing we could have done to someone is backorder their archival boxes. So we are all safe and sound, if a little full of vending machine food and behind on our work.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Libraries vs. Local PD

Hello Klub Katalogers! I just stumbled upon some interesting library controversy brewing up here in the NW. King County Library System is uninstalling their security cameras in response to an incident that occurred a few months ago. Local police asked for surveillance footage from the parking lot to help solve a robbery. KCLS had the audacity to make them get a warrant before turning it over (!) and were subsequently villified for this. To prevent this from occurring again, KCLS has decided to remove the cameras (and save tens of thousands of dollars a year in maintentance). What do we think about this?! Drama, drama, drama.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Book Talk: Smashed by Koren Zailckas

This book is a memoir of the author’s “girlhood,” or the years between 14 (her first drink) and 23 (when she gave up the booze for good). It describes her obsessive love affair with alcohol including trips to the hospital, waking up in strange places, and hangovers she describes in sickening detail. This book is of particular interest to Klub Katalogers because she spends her undergrad years at our Alma Mater – even mentioning Bird Library on two occasions: the first when she studies “among poetry volumes that haven’t been checked out since the early eighties” and the second when Koren is asked to meet her friend on the steps outside so that she can confess the previous evening’s suicide attempt. As you can see from these brief examples, Smashed is at times quite depressing. However, it is a fascinating and engrossing tale of near-misses and complete disasters that will keep the reader’s attention. The sheer number of different alcoholic combinations (to say nothing of volume) she describes is staggering. I would recommend it for readers of fiction and memoir. I would NOT recommend it for mothers of teenage daughters unless you want to be responsible for the ensuing panic attack and psychiatry bill.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Stay Fresh at Roesch

In an earlier post I described how I tracked what students said about the library on Twitter. Not only does it give me some good feedback to share with the rest of the staff (slow Internet, it's too warm in here, etc.) certain tweets inspired our theme for finals week: Stay Fresh at Roesch.

Two students tweeted about #RoeschBreath which they explained was the way your breath smells after spending too much time in the library (smells like musty books!) One of the students kindly edited our "Top Ten Reasons to Visit" brochure by crossing out 10 and replacing it with 11 - Roesch Breath being the 11th reason. Even though this was only two students who had their own inside joke I knew we could use it to turn it into something clever: they had to know we want to hear about their experiences at the library.

So, I came up with the slogan "Stay Fresh at Roesch" while the Dean had the idea to put the slogan on mint candies and have them out during finals (we ordered 4,000 mint candies from a local vendor). The Marketing and Outreach Team that I chair took the theme and ran with it: one member found the perfect font and images that come across as retro, fun, and quirky. Others organized the actual finals event services: free pizza, coffee, chair massages, and taxi rides to the student neighborhoods.

This morning I had help distributing the mints to the upper floors and students are already tweeting about the theme and the mints. One of the first students to notice was a student who originally tweeted about Roesch Breath:

Student: Love that offerers mints to prevent #
RoeschLibrary: So glad you noticed! We got the mints because of your tweets and we saw the Top "11" Reasons to Visit brochure :)
Student: @ I'm so happy someone read it! I was upset when it wasn't there upon my next adventure at !
RoeschLibrary: Oh, sorry! I took it so I could show all the other staff members - you are so funny! Let me know if you want it back :)

I plan on taking pictures of students throughout finals week with the mints (if they last!) and uploading them to a Facebook album. Since the concept came from the students I'd like to keep them involved as much as possible. I went up to each group that had a bowl of mints and asked them what they thought, if I could take their picture, and told them they'd be library celebrities on the I hope this interaction in person and on Twitter shows students that someone is listening. I think a lot of them are really clever and have funny AND important things to say!

'Til next time: Stay fresh at Roesch!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Extra Credit

At my community college library, I have recently received an interesting, recurring reference question, which goes as follows: (student hands me a piece of paper - their homework) "Who is this person?" they ask.
The students are in an English class and the professor includes a "name this author" extra credit photo on each week's homework. Thankfully I have figured them out quickly so far, but I am accepting suggestions for how to help them when I don't recognize the author by sight!
This has inspired me to create a new Klub Katalog feature - Name That Librarian! And with no further ado, please accept my first submission:

So... go librarians, go! First to reveal his identity gets an as-yet-to-be-named prize. Or something.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E-books or E-Readers

I am skeptic when it comes to e-books. It isn't so much the ideal of the device but the number of issues it seems to be creating.

First the trouble with loaning e-books in the library and the fun new ways the publishing industry like to make our lives difficult (damn you Harper Collins!).

Also, the e-reading revolution has brought questions to the reference desk that I don't have good answers for:
  1.  Does your library have e-books?      We have e-books but you can only view them on a computer.
  2. Which device should I get?                   This may depend on your needs and tech skill level. 
  3. Can you load an e-book on my device?      I'm not allowed to play with your device.

Part of this is just the fact that my library isn't ready to handle the explosion of e-readers from the holiday season. We just don't have the resources to help our patrons and this sucks. I hate not being able to really help when presented with a question. Good news, we are aware of the problem and working on it.

I recently went to an E-reader petting zoo that, (I believe), the NC State library sponsors for teaching librarians. I got to play with a Nook, Nook Color, Sony E-Reader, Kobo and the Kindle. I must say I went in preparing to be underwhelmed but I did learn somethings that lighten my e-reader/e-book woes.

First and foremost, there was a discussion of lending out the e-readers themselves as opposed to e-books. There are a few libraries in NC who are actively loaning out the reader's, in fact a local branch within my system is looking to use some e-readers as part of an outreach project. Is it legal? There are some doubts. Yes it requires a signed agreement with the patron but it's so neat to think about checking out the "mystery" or "best sellers" e-reader where you don't just get one book, you get them all.

(Okay I know, not all, as that is impossible but you get the idea.)

The other thing was I learned about Calibre, open source software for converting public domain e-books into the file format your device reads. It worked on PDF articles as well. You don't have to worry about assigning a file format to convert to, plug in your device and it will convert it to the appropriate format on its own.

Hence, my technology challenged mother can use this....

Well, more food for thought when approaching your e-book or e-reader situation...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Book Talk: Matched

Oh, brave not-so-new world of YA fiction! How I love you!

Matched is by new author Ally Condie. I am still trying to figure out if she is a Mormon. If she is, then I will be convinced that being a Mormon will make you a successful YA author.

Matched is the story of Cassia; she lives in the future where humans are engineered for maximum success and only one hundred songs and one hundred poems exist.  Vocations are chosen for you based on tests and people are Matched based on statistical data. Her Matching does not go as planned and drama and adventure ensue.

I enjoyed this book because it's well-written and not cloying like so much other teen drivel out there right now. It finds a happy spot between the classics (Brave New World, The Giver) the new classics (The Hunger Games) and the fantastically awful (I'm looking at you, Twilight).

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Oh no!

I have been sending my thoughts, prayers and donations to Japan along with the rest of the world. I'm saddened about the recent tragedy and am not really sure what this means for the country, its people and their future. I was extremely relieved that Kelly wasn't over there; there would've been an international Klub Kat rescue mission like none other had she still been there.

However, on a less-important note, I just realized that this disaster and its nuclear fallout will undoubtedly affect Hello Kitty production and distribution! If they're not importing food over, they're probably less concerned with Cute.

This may not seem like a library issue, but I'm expecting the reference inquiries about the Japan disaster's affect on Sanrio to start rolling in any minute now.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Library Quotes of the Day

"Yogurt Moon, I hope your legacy for every library you ever work in is to leave it with a good female orgasm section."

"Oh no. We never open the door to children's programs until around ten minutes before. They'll eat all the food!"

Siva Vaidhyanathan, The Googlization of Everything

I wrote this event summary for the DCLA "Capital Librarian" newsletter and thought I'd share it here as well. It was a very interesting talk, especially in light of the rejection of the Google Books settlement last week. The event was recorded, so hopefully the Library of Congress will post the video online soon.

Siva Vaidhyanathan spoke at the Library of Congress on March 25 about his new book, The Googlization of Everything, and his proposed “Human Knowledge Project.” He opened by discussing the recent rejection of the Google Books settlement by Judge Denny Chin. Judge Chin rejected the settlement not so much because of its content, but because a class action settlement was not the right venue to make sweeping policy decisions about copyright. Vaidhyanathan agreed that Congress should be making policy changes, not private parties negotiating through the court system.
Vaidhyanathan sees the rejection of the settlement as an opportunity for librarians. Now is the time to take stock of what libraries and users want and see if we can find a better way to achieve these goals. Vaidhyanathan’s new book, The Googlization of Everything, was initially inspired by the Google Books Project. Early on, he was uncomfortable with Google’s approach to copyright and worried that they were putting too much weight on the principle of fair use. It was inevitable that Google would be sued, and if their defense failed it could create a dangerous precedent that could threaten the very concept of fair use.
Throughout his presentation Vaidhyanathan stressed that companies aren’t stable, long-term organizations. They are usually very short lived and those that do survive undergo huge transformations. What will happen to the Google Books Project years from now as Google’s own priorities and values change? Why were stable, centuries old institutions like universities and libraries turning to a transitory company instead of scanning books themselves?
Google’s lofty mission statement is to “organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” But unlike libraries, archives, and museums, the Google Books Project was not undertaken for the public good. It is a project to improve Google’s profit margin and in reality it is a bookstore, not a library.
On balance, Vaidhyanathan thinks Google has a positive effect on the world and on our day-to-day lives. But we still need to think critically about our relationship with Google and its activities. Google is a good company, but it’s still a company. The Google Books Project is also generally a good idea, but it has many problems, such as low-quality scanning and bad metadata. Google also routinely violates core values of librarianship like user confidentiality.
Vaidhyanathan sees “Public Failure” as the root cause of the Google Books Project. State institutions fail when they are not given enough resources to carry out their roles in society. When the state fails, private companies step in, as has happened with privatized prisons and private charter schools. Our national system of libraries and universities didn’t have the resources to create a universal digital library, so Google stepped in to do it for us.
There is an opportunity now for libraries to step up and do it better through projects like the Open Book Alliance, the Hathi Trust, and the new Digital Public Library of America. Such a project are based on the core values of librarianship and the accumulated knowledge of the profession.
Vaidhyanathan hopes we’ll follow the model of the Human Genome Project. Initially attempts to map the human genome were publically financed, but underfunded and fragmented. Then the Celera Corporation announced that it planned to privately map the genome at a speed the public efforts could not match. Celera planned to patent gene sequences and use the genome for private profit. In response the scientific community mobilized politically and launched a massive global project to produce an open access genome that would be freely available to all researchers. The public sequence was published in the same week as the Celera sequence. Librarians need to mobilize and work together in the same way to create our own Human Knowledge Project. It will be a long-term effort, but Vaidhyanathan is optimistic that it will be possible and a true universal library can be created; one which will be publically financed, based on the core values of librarianship, and freely available worldwide.