Archive for July 2006

(Not) Getting Things Done

Yesterday was going to see a different post, but Blogger’s been down for quite a while, taking my half-finished draft ramblings with it. Yes, I know, this is what I get for using a third-party service…

So, on another note, will someone please explain this Getting Things Done phenomenon to me? You have to like a book which includes phrases like “amorphous blob of undoability,” but, here’s a wee bit of honesty: I’ve checked this book out of the library three times, I’ve renewed it as often as the system will let me, and getting through it is one of those things I can’t get done. I’ve incorporated a couple of minor tidbits out of it, like “do a task now if it will take less than two minutes to complete” — and that’s been all good. But, the rest of it seems somewhat overwhelming.

I do have delusions of someday becoming uber-organized. Like yesterday, when the gigantic new IKEA catalog showed up, I drooled as always over the bright furniture with all the tidy little cubbies. (Nevermind the bizarrely pitiful cthulhu-wannabe five-legged octopus they’re trying to push on children lately.) Will GTD free my inner consumer? (OK, I’m sure that’s not the point, but give me an excuse here…)

So, for you GTD evangelists, where should I start? Does one have to jump whole hog into this system for it to be effective? Should I just start reading 43 Folders instead of the book itself? Will I actually experience “stress-free productivity?”

It looks like Blogger’s back up for a moment, so I’ll post this now … letting me feel like I’ve gotten at least something done! ETA — apparently Blogger is only half-down, it’s letting me blog to my blogspot blog, but not to this one via FTP. So hopefully y’all won’t see this 37 times from my repeated attempts to publish!

Making Nice or Making News?

I just thought I’d pop back in briefly to share a couple other things I’ve seen lately that seem related to this whole visible and vocal discussion. For instance, via Boing Boing the other day I ran across this fun little tidbit: Lady Gamers Get Voice Changer. (No, I don’t think this is a new concept, but… good lord.)

Then, Louise Alcorn over at Librarian’s Rant shares her thoughts in Not Ready to Make Nice — on a somewhat different subject, but expressing the same sentiments: “Since when have we started again to buy into the idea that women should ‘make nice’ when they see injustice or idiocy?”

I think a lot of this boils down to just being tired of having the same conversations. I’ve been online for 20 years, and these are the same sorts of discussions that were happening on BBSs in the mid-1980s and early 90s, just now with a bigger critical mass of women, and specific to librarianship. I had a lot more energy for it then than I do now.

Working and Words

Over at Caveat Lector, Dorothea Salo responds to my somewhat toss-off question about people’s tendencies to comment privately on women and library technology more readily than they do publicly:

Is it a coincidence that Rachel was the first to ask publicly about the public-private divide in women’s behavior around this? I don’t think so, not at all; Rachel doesn’t work in a library. I do. I surely do fear for my career if I stir up the kind of tornado that I was about to, the kind of storm that if you ask me, this problem deserves.

It’s true, I don’t work in a library — although my career does depend on working with people who work in libraries, which is not as far removed as you might think. As Dorothea again notes, it’s a question of “future marketability.” Trust me, there are plenty of things I don’t say, on this topic and otherwise!

But, I guess the real question is: what motivates us enough to have the tough discussions? We tend to spill a lot of virtual ink around the same issues. But we also seem to spend it most passionately on topics on which our little biblioblogosphere (if not the big bad outside world) is fairly in agreement. Yes, it surely does suck when library funding is cut. Yes, we need to figure out where libraries are going and how they are affected by technological change. And yes, we need to keep talking and writing about these issues. But we also need to pay attention to touchy internal topics — like that nagging question of women and technology — because our interactions with each other affect all those other recurrent issues.

If we’re quiet on this topic because we “have to work with guys like that” or others ask us to “smooth things over,” what else are we keeping quiet about? Silence begets silence, and not making waves quickly becomes a habit.

I’d very much like to see Dorothea’s original unpublished posts on this topic — as I’d like to see more from the unnamed library blogger she mentions, and comments from those who e-mailed me privately. (Start out by commenting anonymously, even!) Many of those who have posted on this topic stress their feelings of isolation; sharing stories and opinions is one way to combat this.

(More, perhaps, later, at a time more conducive to clear thought than 3:20 AM…)

… Be a Patron, Part II

Being a regular patron also highlights for me that minor barriers can be major annoyances. Shortly after joining my new library, I saw a notice about free wireless access. “Cool,” I thought, and promptly trucked my laptop and papers up to a table, set everything up, and prepared to connect — only to be prompted for a username and password. “Grr,” I thought, and promptly packed everything back up (even at my nice new library, I don’t leave a laptop unattended at a table), went over to a service desk to find a flier about wireless access that listed the username and password, went back to my table and set everything back up…

As a librarian, I think, OK, maybe there’s a reason they’re set up this way. As a regular patron, all I can see is that I’m inconvenienced, and I think about the fact that I can go to Panera (where I can also drink coffee till lightning bolts shoot out of my fingertips) and connect immediately.

Yes, in the grand scheme of things, this is a minor annoyance. But these add up — each minor annoyance contributes to an overall impression of libraries as places that put up unnecessary barriers, making it more difficult for patrons to accomplish what they need to get done.

And no, I’m not picking on my specific library, which I love to death, and which in the grand scheme of things sets up fewer barriers than many. But I am noting the importance of looking at even the smallest aspects of our services with an eye toward how we can make things run more smoothly.

… Wouldn’t You Like to Be a Patron Too?

Before last spring, I hadn’t had a real, patron-ish library card for over 10 years. (The whole no-fines-on-staff-cards arrangement made this a no-brainer!) So, one of my first orders of business when quitting my day job last year was to go and purchase a card. I’m in an unincorporated area not served by a library district, so get to choose from several nearby options.

Last year, I bought a card at the library in the town closest to where I live. (Which, although it’s a very nice library, needs to pass a referendum — the place is bursting at the seams, and I wish I did live there so I could vote.) This year, I did a little shopping around, and spent $80 more to buy a card at a library 5 minutes further away, but with a much larger collection — and no fees to check out DVDs, which serves a certain Elmo-loving small person well. I love this library, although I’m experiencing a certain guilt from voting with my feet in this way.

It’s also been really interesting to experience public library service from the other end.

For instance: When I worked in a public library, we could never understand how patrons could repeatedly lose library cards or leave them at home. My new library card has been through the wash twice since I got it in April, and needs another new name sticker right now. When we go to the library as a family on Saturday mornings, my husband drives, and I don’t often carry a purse since I don’t need my license. So, the card gets stuck in a pocket (hence the washer issue). When I get home, it tends to get left on a counter, buried under mail, knocked on the floor… yes, I’m ashamed, revoke my ALA membership right now. I’ve spent a good 30 minutes looking for the card while my family taps their feet impatiently by the door.

Then, there’s my new library pet peeve: the receipt printout system. Rather than due date cards in each item, I get a printed receipt of all the items I check out on a given date, with all of their due dates. This is useless to me. I generally have 40+ items out at any given time, renew items online, ILL items often, and visit the library at least weekly. The nice circulation people gave me a handy little refrigerator magnet to hold the receipts, but I just throw them away and instead check my online account obsessively. Once, the ILS was down right before a library visit. Chaos ensued.

I was also amazed at my own reluctance to approach a public service desk when needing help a couple of weeks ago. I’m not sure if I was frustrated that I couldn’t “do it myself” because I’ve been accustomed to doing so for so long, but it made me a bit more sympathetic to all the people who were reluctant to approach the reference desk where I worked. The readers services people couldn’t have been friendlier, but I found myself using IM the next time I had a question — and I’m not even a teen.

We talk about not putting up unecessary barriers for patrons — along these lines, I think that we need to make a habit of using our libraries as patrons, and I wish I’d done so before.

The Boy and Cat in Question

.flickr-photo { }.flickr-frame { float: right; text-align: center; margin-left: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px; }.flickr-caption { font-size: 0.8em; margin-top: 0px; }

0712lovemax
0712lovemax,
originally uploaded by lib_rachel.

So, while I’m playing with Flickr, I thought that seeing the boy and cat in question might help people visualize the situation described in the last post…

Everything Trumps Blogging

Sadly, I missed the “life trumps blogging” meme a while back — because I’d be jumping right on that bandwagon, let me tell you. Soon, I promise, soon you’ll be treated to some of the half-finished posts I have floating around. It may even have been yesterday, had a certain small child not chosen that moment to bathe the cat in the toilet (don’t ask…).

Till then:

First, I find it interesting that I received one public comment but four private e-mails on this recent post. I’m curious if those of you who also blogged on the subject had similar types of feedback, and also wondering what about the topic lends itself to private, rather than public discussion?

Secondly, a Friday funny for you all — or, more like, a “who has this much time on their hands?” funny. (video + sound warning)

Lastly, maybe it’s just me, but does this seem like a heck of a lot of work for a five-year volunteer commitment?

What Is and What Should Never Be

Last night, I caught a snippet of an interview on NPR, where the interviewee noted that remakes of Led Zeppelin songs are generally flops. Zeppelin fans look for a specific combination of factors: this specific drummer, this specific guitar sound, this particular vocal style. The songs fail to stand on their own; while you can play a Gershwin tune in the style of Led Zeppelin, you can’t really play a Zeppelin tune in a Gershwin — or any other — style. (He illustrated this point by picking out an entertaining one-finger piano melody, recognizable as a Zeppelin song, but definitely not Zeppelin.)

This leads me in a roundabout way to thinking about library-related conferences, which fail or succeed due to a confluence of factors. You need engaging presenters, an accessible and functional location, enthusiastic attendees, a commitment on the part of conference organizers to make everything run smoothly, and so on. Subtract any one factor, and some attendees will have a nagging sense of wrongness. Subtract any one factor, and the conference is less than what it could be.

I’m coming to the issue late (as usual!), but have been watching the conversation Karen Schneider sparked recently with her post on 2.0: Where are the Women? (See also: Dorothea Salo, Grunch and the Library Coder, Linda Absher, It’s a Man’s World, and Karen Coombs, On Being the Library Web Chic.) Gender balance, particularly women’s representation in technology-related programs or at hard-core techie conferences, can be one of these necessary factors. Some recognize it more consciously than others, but it’s one piece of the greater whole that makes for a satisfying conference experience.

Some random observations. I don’t think that there’s a vast conspiracy here, but that sometimes conference organizers don’t think to ask women — or create an environment that supports everyone. Other issues come into play as well, though. I think the various commenters to Karen’s initial post have it right about women in library technology being spread too thin. An anecdote: A few months ago, I asked a number of people to contribute to a work on library technology. The work’s ended up with a 50/50 split between male and female contributors — but, out of the people I originally asked, eight said they were stretched too thin to contribute: one man, seven women.

I say “no” more often than I’d like, partially due to childcare issues, partially due to being stretched too thin with other projects, and partially due to my brain being too full. (Alongside the professional track, I have the ongoing “are we out of kleenex and when’s the kid’s next dr. appt. and what do I need to defrost for dinner tonight and can I go another day without doing laundry and I need to pick him up from camp in 30 minutes so what can I start without getting into it too heavily and having to leave in the middle and did I put sunscreen on him this morning and I should call his friend for a playdate and the cat needs to go to the vet and I’d better send a birthday card to my mother-in-law” track.) Having the primary responsibility for childcare has changed the way I prioritize, and makes it less likely I’ll go back to systems librarianship anytime soon — or really burn up the library conference circuit.

Sarah Houghton comments specifically on the LITA Top Tech Trends panel at Steve Lawson’s See Also, noting that the mix of contributors tends heavily toward academic librarians and mentioning the financial barrier to conference attendance, let alone participation, for a lot of us. At mfpow, a public library, professional development funding was virtually nonexistent and even getting time away to attend or give workshops could be problematic. I vaguely remember reading that academic librarianship tends to attract more men than public librarianship. (In this article on “Career and/or Children: Do Female Academic Librarians Pay a Price for Motherhood?” — interesting reading in its own right — Zemon and Bahr say women represent close to 70% of academic librarians.)

If anyone’s seen updated gender breakdowns for systems librarians, please comment here; mine are from a few years back, so I’d love to take a look at newer stats. I’d particularly be interested in detailed breakdowns — my sense is that, the more hard-core “techie” the job, the greater the gender imbalance, but that’s based on anecdotal evidence and observation, rather than actual numbers.

Friday Funnies

(… are all I can manage due to a preschooler with nightmares, who thought 4:30 was a grand time to get up today…!)

So, my sleeplessness is your amusement:

Enjoy!