Sunday, September 11, 2011
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
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
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
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
Sunday, July 10, 2011
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
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
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Monday, May 30, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
Monday, May 9, 2011
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 us...in 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
Sunday, May 1, 2011
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
Thursday, April 21, 2011
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
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:
- Does your library have e-books? We have e-books but you can only view them on a computer.
- Which device should I get? This may depend on your needs and tech skill level.
- 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
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
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
"Oh no. We never open the door to children's programs until around ten minutes before. They'll eat all the food!"