Archive for February 2007

Life Trumps Speaking

First off, let me say that I love speaking to library groups. I find it energizing and inspiring and a great way to remain connected with the profession, giving me the in-person interaction I often lack when working out of my home.

But… if you invite me to come speak to your group this fall or next winter/spring, chances are I’m going to say no.

The main reason for this is our ongoing adoption saga — since we have no clear idea of dates at this point, only could-bes, I’m erring on the side of caution. I don’t think it’s fair to commit to preparing presentations and traveling at a time when we might be bringing a new little person into our lives, and want to spend more one-on-one time with Jake before this happens.

Like Deborah Ng, though, it’s hard for me to say no, especially to work I find both interesting and challenging. I also wonder about perceptions and burning bridges, but need to set priorities, and what has to give at this point is the travel. So if I say/have said “no” to you, it’s a no for now — not forever!

Gotta Have It?

I was watching live TV last night, which is rare since we made the DVR plunge. Finished my book during the first commercial break, and was too wrapped up in blankets and cats to go get more reading material, providing plenty of time for my brain to ramble during the next few breaks. (Incidentally, I’m amazed at articles like this recent NYT one mentioning that DVR owners don’t fast forward through ads as much as people originally thought — I mean, who wouldn’t, if they could?)

Anyway, where my mind rambled is thus: over the past 10-15 years, I’ve gone from a dinky TV with no cable to a 36″ TV with 150something satellite channels and DVR… from a dialup modem to cable modem… I’ve invested in a cell phone and in Netflix and in various other ways to keep myself and my family entertained and connected, and I’m not particularly unique nor particularly ahead of the curve — my parents even had DVR a couple years before we got it!. Of course, these various investments come with their various costs: there goes $15/month for Netflix, there’s $58/month for DirecTV, there’s another $47 for the cell and another $61 (thank you, Comcast!) for the Internet.

I think these types of investments are one reason people don’t feel particularly concerned about helping libraries absorb the costs involved in adding new technologies and new formats. Because, well, we all have had to deal with it, haven’t we? If we decide to add Netflix to our entertainment mix, no one is going to add a Netflix bonus onto our paychecks, so if our neighborhood library decides to start offering DVDs or additional Internet terminals or what have you, they don’t get an entertainment or technology bonus either.

But the difference lies in that libraries often have to invest in new technologies and formats to remain relevant in the lives of their communities. If I start feeling a financial pinch, the only investment I really need to keep here is the Internet one. I can cancel Netflix or cancel satellite TV with no real risk — I might have more free time, get more books read, but be less able to converse knowledgeably on movies and shows, oh well. Libraries can’t — and shouldn’t — go back on the investments they’ve made, nor can they stop buying materials in various popular formats or cut back on the T1 line this month. Perhaps we need to be better able to explain why adding new technologies and formats is more essential for libraries than for individuals.

Technorati Profile

Don’t mind me, this is just to try out this claim Technorati Profile deal.

Penguins With Typewriters

Penguin is experimenting with a web-based, collaborative, wiki novel called — what else — A Million Penguins. “‘This is an experiment. It may end up like reading a bowl of alphabet spaghetti,’ Jeremy Ettinghausen, head of digital publishing at Penguin UK said, adding there were no plans as yet to publish the completed work.”

Talk about a test of the wisdom of crowds! Some of the alternative versions are pretty amusing… enjoy, even if you’re not inspired to contribute.

(Why am I blogging so much today? Well, being home with a cold and a kid with pinkeye, of course!)

Congratulations, Laura!

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Originally uploaded by lsavastinuk.

Photo Luggage Tags

This is cool — upload your own photo and these folks will create and mail you two free customized photo luggage tags. Yup, they say all over the back, but still, I hope mine come before Computers in Libraries this April :) .

(yes, free! forgot to emphasize that the first time…)

Making Our Careers Happen

Meredith Farkas has a great post on Making things happen!, talking about Five Weeks to a Social Library and other projects.

The NEWLIB-L list also had a little flurry of discussion recently about library internships, and a couple of people mentioned their success in simply approaching libraries at which they were interested in interning. (This, of course, often works better at smaller, less bureaucratic institutions — and when a prospective intern has a very specific picture of what they can offer an organization, what projects they could work on, and what they want to accomplish.)

This is a profession in which we do have the power to make things happen — and in which we need to take charge of our own careers and our own development from the very beginning. Too many of us wait for our libraries to send us to conferences, to give us the skills and knowledge we need to advance, when in many cases we’re lucky if our libraries are proactive enough to even give us the skills and knowledge we need for our current jobs. We can’t sit back and assume that good things will happen and that our career paths will plot themselves out in a nice linear fashion for us.

G. Kim Dority writes about this in Rethinking Information Work, which is a good read for both new professionals and mid-career librarians figuring out what to do next. But, as a starting point, we need to take some of the energy we devote to promoting our institutions and devote it to promoting ourselves. Play the “where do you see yourself in five years” interview game — but this time, answer honestly, since you’re talking to yourself. Make a mental picture, whether you see yourself in management, whether you see yourself publishing a book, whether you see yourself moving to a different field.

Now, what do you need to get there? What steps can you take? What classes do you need to attend? How many article proposals do you need to send out this year? What blogs should you read? What conferences do you want to attend? Can you find grants or travel reimbursement to apply for? Do you have online/free options? Do you need to build up funds to tide you over while you strike out on your own? Figure out what you need to do, and break it into logical steps. Keep your eye out for opportunities that can help you reach your goals — look for calls for contributors, find announcements of online courses, be alert for posts or discussions with others who have similar goals.

Being proactive is rewarding both personally and professionally, so think about how you can move forward. You don’t have to create an online course, you don’t have to create a blog, you don’t have to find yourself an internship — but it will pay off if you take the time to think about what step is right for you to take next.


This morning, as I was watching Jake read one book while simultaneously listening to a different title on CD, I flashed back to this Myth of Multitasking diagram that was making the rounds a while back.

I’ve been doing some reading on giftedness and how it can be misdiagnosed as ADD — part of the reason being teachers’ observations of gifted kids staring out the window, doodling, moving around, reading, or otherwise occupying themselves while the teacher’s talking to the class about something else. The difference here, though, is that gifted kids, when asked, are also following the teacher’s discussion — but, since it doesn’t occupy enough of their mind or covers ground they already know, they’re “multitasking” to keep the rest of their brain active.

For me, the effectiveness of multitasking is task-dependent — I read while I watch TV (although not as often now that we have DVR and can skip commercials!) — but not if what’s on TV is especially gripping or what I’m reading is especially dense. I often work on several articles at a time, writing a paragraph here, a paragraph there, and find that moving back and forth allows my brain to work on things in the background and helps prevent writer’s block. I have e-mail open all day, IM open often, and I’m quite sure that constantly checking e-mail saps my productivity (but can’t stop!).


Just a couple of pointers, perhaps more later:

The other day, we watched This Film Is Not Yet Rated — definitely worth seeing, if you haven’t yet. PUBLIB and other lists see recurrent discussions on minors, videos, and MPAA ratings, and this provides another perspective.

Over on Pop Goes the Library, Sophie Brookover also posts about “Pop Culture Goes Local,” talking about libraries’ role in enabling access to media, especially local media, beyond the conglomerates.

Geek Grrls, Balance, and More

If I were a little more visually clever I’d enter this geek grrl photo contest. I think, though, that we need some librarian representation… if you enter, share here.

Picking up on previous discussions, I ran across “Why Are Women Exiting IT?” in InfoWorld recently, with more discussion and resources online. Apparently, not only are women still underrepresented in IT, but the numbers are actually declining — “For example, women accounted for 16.6 percent of all network and computer systems administrator positions in 2006, down from 23.4 percent in 2000.”

Beyond all the many, many other ways that we “lose our techie librarians,” I think one way to lose people is to pay insufficient attention to the issue of work/life balance. IT work, whether in- or outside of librarianship, can easily chip away at that whole balance thing, especially when we don’t fund it sufficiently and/or ask people to take on these responsibilities in addition to all their other librarian-ish duties.

On this note, it’s interesting to look at the Engendering Balance section of the InfoWorld report. Of course, this is nothing that hasn’t been said before, but is something that we should perhaps pay more attention to — both as a female-dominated profession and as one that’s so intimately intertwined with technology.

(edited a couple hours later to add… I forgot to link to this post about “all women’s day” — a call for postings by women on Web/Library 2.0 issues on March 8, which I meant to include here.)