Archive for January 2007

It Opened up my Mind…

After posting about church signs, I thought a little more about religion’s lessons for getting people passionately involved and engaged. Recently, I received a sample issue of off our backs in the mail, which happened to focus on women and fundamentalism. One of the articles talked about “the allure of the Religious Right” for women as other support networks have crumbled:

Enter the Religious Right with an array of services and support that could no longer be found elsewhere. For struggling families, the support churches offered was an oasis in the desert, everything from home-cooked meals delivered to women and their families after a new child was born to free maternity clothes, baby clothes, and furniture, a supportive community of willing babysitters, women’s gatherings during the week, book discussion groups, men’s and women’s aerobics, food and clothes bank programs, weekly meetings in homes for Bible study and “fellowship,” men’s basketball and softball teams, choirs, worship orchestras, child and adult musical and drama presentations and “living Christmas tree” projects, grief support, and a host of programs for people of all ages. Best of all? It was all free….This level of support in a society lacking even minimal support for young families can be hard to resist.

(I also have Jesus Camp sitting in my Netflix queue, which promises to be interesting.)

We talk so much about how libraries build communities, about how we provide essential services, about how we bridge the digital divide and create programming for all ages — and do it all for free. Yeah, we lack the religion hook, but I’ve seen in oob and elsewhere plenty of discussion about the fact that what originally hooks people in is this sense of community and support they find lacking in other parts of their daily lives.

Looking at the ways in which churches and other organizations have stepped in to fill these gaps might well give us insight into both the need for community, in what ways people most need support. It’s worth thinking about what libraries’ and librarians’ role may be, with these issues in mind.

We Don’t Need No

Library Journal has a short news story up about “Burger to Appoint LIS Task Force” — yes, we’re back to discussing the state of library education, with the interesting note that, at the ALISE Forum on Professional Education at Midwinter: “With some 80 percent of those present educators and 20 percent practitioners, there were too few students or new librarians to offer their immediate perspective—a limitation that has also been the case in previous forums.” Meanwhile, Michael Stephens points to a blog from San Jose State University, slis21 (SLIS Associate Director: Discussions on a Curriculum for a 21st Century Library School). A post on “skills for the 21st century librarian” is garnering some particularly interesting comments, both in- and outside the SJSU community.

Our ongoing discussions about the state of library education and accreditation are a further testament to the “fuzziness” of our field. While many agree that changes need to be made, there are real fundamental disagreements on the types and scope of changes that are necessary. Those envisioned by Michael Gorman, for instance, may not resemble those desired by Meredith Farkas.

The LJ squib points out that the discussions on accreditation beg the question of “whether the profession retains sufficient commonality” around which to build a core curriculum. This is a larger question worth pulling out for examination. My gut feeling is yes, but I think we need to build that core with an understanding of the very different environments in which people will work post-graduation, and an agreement of what we need to know to both build the foundations of that work and understand the importance (and basic idea of) our colleagues’ work — of librarianship in all its variations.

I’m also interested in hearing what the rest of you feel is core to a 21st century library education. Can we update our curricula to build a common — and relevant — center?

Fuzzy Wuzzy Was

Meredith Farkas posted a link to the Library 2.0 Meme Map on Web4Lib that got me thinking about the subject again. Specifically, that I’ve seen a lot of objections to the “fuzziness” of Library 2.0 as a term, but we seem perfectly willing to accept similar fuzziness in other aspects of our profession.

Take the word “librarian” itself. We hold onto that self-definition, regardless of whether our work includes telling stories, overseeing large-scale digitization projects, answering reference questions, or managing repository projects. My most recent career as a reference librarian at a public library, for instance, doesn’t necessarily help me wrap my head around the day-to-day work of colleagues engaged in projects we didn’t even have names for when I went to library school.

So, if we’re willing to expand our professional horizons and definitions to encompass people doing such different, yet somehow related, work, why can’t we similarly accept the varied foci of people exploring the different, yet somehow related aspects of Library 2.0? Is it simply because it’s new?

And yes, some will define “librarian” as simply someone who holds an MLS, but I think this is an oversimplification, given both the diversity of fields in which we work and the number of people who do the work and call themselves/have the title of librarian, without having earned the degree. Not to mention the fact that we lack standardization in library education and schools, so we come out with the same degree, having learned very different things.

Speaking of Spectrums

This was a fascinating interview on NPR with the author of Born on a Blue Day. Worth listening to if, like me, you’re interested in the intersections between Aspergers and giftedness. I’ve got the book on hold at my local library, and it promises to be an interesting read.

Reasons to be glad you don’t live in Chicago like me

Because, if you don’t live here, you probably haven’t been subjected to a week of “The Superbowl Shuffle,” alternating with rousing renditions of “Bear down, Chicago Bears.” On the radio. In the mall. In restaurants. In the grocery store…

That’s all. Back to our regularly-scheduled blogging now.

I saw the sign…


It’s a Sign!
Originally uploaded by lib_rachel.

OK, I admit it — I really like church signs. But this one slays me — every morning, when I drive my son to school, I pass this church. Out front, they have a big poster of the graphic at the beginning of the video on the upper right of their site (sound warning).

While I’m unlikely to join, they amused the heck out of me and got me to their site. How can we be similarly creative?

Can You Find Us Now?

Among other things, my husband’s company does search engine marketing and optimization, so I get to hear a lot about conferences and strategies. It’s interesting to look at the time and resources that some companies put toward SEO/SEM and contrast this with what a lot of libraries do — which is: get a site up, maybe submit a listing to a search engine or two, and then forget about the issue. (Although I did notice that some of the OCLC folks made it to SES Chicago a couple of months ago.)

This is especially interesting given our inherent professional interest in findability. Perhaps we spend so much time making sure our stuff can be found that we forget the importance of making sure we can be found. Sarah Houghton-Jan addressed this topic a bit in a presentation at the last Internet Librarian conference on Online Outreach for Public Libraries, which is a fantastic start — and if your library hasn’t implemented the steps on her list, it might be a good project to tackle this week.

It’s also fascinating to see some of the other tactics people use to get the word out. Maybe I live under a rock, for instance, but the first I heard of PayPerPost was the other night, when my husband mentioned using it as part of a marketing campaign. (I don’t think he’ll pay ME to post, alas.) This is not, perhaps, a model we wish to adopt — but getting buzz about our services online can be priceless.

If you’re interested in dipping your own toes into the SEO waters, check out Couzin and Grappone’s Search Engine Optimization: An Hour a Day. This is probably the most readable introductory book I’ve seen on the subject, yet thorough enough to keep you busy for quite a while.

Globally Outsourcing Information Work?

Someone on the librarian stay-at-home-parents group just pointed to this craigslist Bangalore ad for a telecommuting “highly proficient and experienced researcher.” From the ad, it looks like they’re looking for someone to do work for U.S. companies (they ask for rates in USD and require fluency in English).

Not only did I not know there was a craigslist Bangalore, I never thought much about the global outsourcing of information work. I see a lot of articles about global outsourcing in IT periodicals, but don’t think I’ve ever seen this come up in the library literature. (Am I just not reading the right journals?) Poking around the international craigslist communities, it seems these sorts of listings are, if not abundant, at least somewhat common.

Is this something that’s becoming more common? Are we going to be having similar discussions to the (sometimes heated) IT conversations over the next few years?

Ms. Dewey’s alter ego

We’re watching The L-Word tonight (free six months of Showtime with our new Dish TV), when who shows up but Ms. Dewey herself. So, if you loved her on Windows Live Search, now you can have your own IM icon or wallpaper.

Ph.D.s and Paths Not Taken

The Annoyed Librarian points to an Inside Higher Ed article on the state of the job market for new history Ph.D.s. I always find these interesting, as my pre-librarianship path pointed to a Ph.D. in modern Judaism (yup, even more marketable! she says, tongue firmly in cheek), then a run at that elusive tenure-track position. When I dropped out (AKA, when I took my year’s leave of absence… 12 years ago…) I worked a year in customer service at a trucking company before deciding a new career was in order and going the MLS route.

So, if you think the entry-level library job market is tough, cheer yourself up by thinking about the Ph.D.s who find theirs so bad they jump ship for libraries. I wonder on occasion if I’d be tenured today if I’d toughed out my soul-crushing grad school experience, but figure it’s more likely that I would have spent those years piecing together a living as an adjunct at three different community colleges. Or found a job at Starbucks.

I also always find it interesting to hear about people’s paths to this field, whether we’re Ph.D. dropouts or lawyers who got tired of the rat race or teachers who burned out on their field. This variety of experiences and backgrounds is, I think, important in keeping our profession viable.