Monday, April 30, 2007


The Pace of Publishing

Way back in December, I read Dorothea Salo's post on "Why I Am the Enemy," checked "keep new" in Bloglines with the intention of responding to the bit of her post containing a lament about the slow pace of print publishing, and then... well... didn't. (I guess the faster pace of blogging only works if bloggers are on the ball!)

I already talked last year about some of my reasons for the continued viability of book publishing. Now that I've been blogging a bit longer, I still believe in all of those pluses -- but also in the complementary nature of the two formats. I believe that a big chunk of the readers who see Dorothea's chapter in the upcoming Information Tomorrow book will be unfamiliar with her blog, and that her ideas need to be seen by this different audience. I believe that conversation about her work, and that of the other contributors to the collection, will explode online post-publication, and that this is a Good Thing.

ALA Editions posted an interesting book production timeline on their blog a while back, which might provide some insight into why book publishing takes so darn long. And yes, I get frustrated with the slow pace of print publishing as well, but understand it a bit better now that I'm seeing it from the other side.

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Back to Balance

Posted the May 1 issue of Info Career Trends today, on "building balance." I especially appreciated Marcy Brown's pointer to Making a Living Without a Job and the idea of creating "multiple profit centers" to deal with the inevitable ebbs and flows of self-employment.

I'm also reading Leslie Bennetts' The Feminine Mistake, which talks, in part, about the long-term economic impact of women's decisions to quit their jobs to stay home with their children. In libraries, this is pretty easy to rationalize: I make less money than my partner; I'm burned out working with the public; my salary would go to daycare; it makes sense for me to stay home. But, while our salaries may not be all that great, we shouldn't dismiss the benefits of more years in Social Security and/or an employed-sponsored retirement plan, access to 403B/401K plans, more time to move up the career ladder and earn raises and promotions, better future employment prospects.

I don't regret swapping full-time work in a library for self-employment, but think we need to go into any of these changes with our eyes wide open. I can't contribute to a 403B, but I'm darn sure to dump the maximum into my IRA each year. I'm no longer participating in a pension plan, but I'm continuing to work for pay each year and trying to avoid those years of zeros being figured into my Social Security. I'm doing things related to librarianship that will put me in a better position if and when I do decide to go back to more traditional work. I didn't quit right away, but took time to build up some freelance work. I'm incredibly lucky in that my husband's workplace provides family health coverage.

Women (never men) come up to me fairly regularly at conferences or send e-mails asking, basically, how they can quit their day jobs too. I'm all for this, but think any one of us who takes that plunge needs to be aware of the long-term implications and to have a long-term plan and goals (however flexible or changeable these might be). This also points to the need for libraries to pay attention to work/life balance issues for everyone.

I was at dinner with a few mom friends the other night, all of us librarian or teacher types, and the conversation came around to goals. A couple of people said straight out that they don't have any career or long-term goals, don't think they need any, and that their focus is only on their kids and making sure they turn out well.

My kid (soon kids!) is my top priority, but I don't think it's healthy for either of us that he be my only priority, or to focus only on the immediate future of staying home with kids without also thinking about a long-term career path. We can't truly build balance without an idea of what we want from our lives and our careers, and where our priorities lie in terms of both short-term needs and long-term goals.

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Originally uploaded by lib_rachel.
Look what Wii got yesterday! Target opened at 8:00 with a new batch, and at 8:15 we grabbed the last one in stock.

Game suggestions, anyone?

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Home Sweet Homestudy

Adoption update for those following along at home: Our adoption counselor came for the home visit today, ascertained we had one, and is now writing up our homestudy. Then, we fill out yet another government form, get fingerprinted a third time (don't ask), and wait.

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Found a Job Lately? Get in the Wall Street Journal

I was just contacted by a reporter from the Wall Street Journal (who's done an article every few years on "niche" job hunting sites, librarianship as a career, etc.). Anyway, she's working on a new article in which she needs to profile "a job hunter who found a new job via an ad on an industry- or geographic-specific site such as yours. But here's the caveat. This person also must have only searched such niche Web sites for jobs and not the biggies like Monster or CareerBuilder."

So, if you found a job through recently, didn't bother searching the general sites, and would love to talk to a WSJ reporter about your experiences, send me your contact info ( and I'll forward on to her.

Edited 7:45 PM Thursday: don't send me any more responses, she says she has enough, thanks!

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Computer Book Giveaway Recipients

Thanks to everyone who participated in the computer book giveaway. I wish I had enough pertinent titles to give out to everyone who asked, but had an overwhelming response. Please do watch this space for an opportunity to try again. (Most likely next spring, but possibly sooner if I build up a new stock of the most commonly-requested items -- and my back recovers from the trip to the post office!)

The following six libraries will each be receiving a box of computer guides:

Russell County Public Library, Lebanon, VA
Cornell Public Library, Cornell, WI
Magee Public Library, Magee, MS
Glenwood City Public Library, Glenwood, WI
McIntosh Memorial Library, Viroqua, WI
Memphis Public Library, Memphis, TN

And nope, I'm not obsessed with Wisconsin. It just happened.

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Publication Presentation

This June, I'm heading to Florida to give a couple of back-to-back workshops on writing for publication to a couple of groups of library folks. As I'm putting these together and thinking about what content to include, I thought I might ask for others' opinions. What topics would be most useful to you as an attendee at this sort of workshop?

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Boundaries and Bubbles

I didn't write about the horrifying Kathy Sierra situation a while back; the most I could add was a "me too" to that outraged chorus. This did, though, get me thinking about these concepts of "community" and "social" we've been tossing around, and about the blurring of boundaries between our online and offline lives.

We're still so startled when a situation like this intrudes into our online lives, no matter how much time we spend telling our patrons to watch what they post on MySpace and how much time we spend telling our colleagues that what they say online will follow them forever. I know intellectually that random strangers can easily find my posts here in Google and run across discussion list posts from ten years ago. This keeps me from crossing certain lines, but I still write as if I'm talking to a community of friends and colleagues -- and, for the most part, I am, even though I face the occasional angry e-mail or confrontation at a conference. I similarly believe that, for the most part, my neighbors are decent people -- even though one has loud parties, and another lets his large and somewhat scary dogs run free, and another tends to back into our mailbox, and this one is feuding with that one, and... I still believe that, for the most part, public libraries are wonderful institutions, even though patrons at mfpow have thrown things at me, cursed me out, vandalized restrooms, and punched a former colleague in the face.

Online communities get messy because people don't cease being themselves when they get online -- and any antisocial tendencies are exacerbated when you don't have to see your victim face-to-face. The same openness necessary to building that sense of community also leaves us open to those who want to tear these communities down, just as the openness that makes public libraries such special and vibrant institutions also makes them places where you don't necessarily want to let your children wander around unattended.

When we talk about online community and the "social" in software, we need to do so with the same awareness. Just as we need to be aware of the temptation of technolust when thinking about exciting new technologies, we need to be aware of the temptation of connectionlust when thinking about the communities we and our patrons build online. We need to balance our enthusiasm for new possibilities with an awareness of our responsibilities and mission, and an awareness that, when you're dealing with people, life gets messy.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Tuesday Freebies

I'm a bit of an Internet freebie addict, and, as I picked up my mail today to find free cat food, coupons, and shampoo, it occurred to me that it might be a little bit selfish to keep these all to myself. Who doesn't want to save money on a librarian's salary? So, here are a few examples to help suck you in:
I generally find these with a daily visit to Vicky's Deals and subscription to a local bargain hunting Yahoo! group. Have your own to share? Comment here.

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Monday, April 23, 2007


Signing, Signing, Everywhere the Signing

Big book!!!
Originally uploaded by librarianmer.
Blogging has fallen by the wayside these past couple of weeks as I was getting ready for, attending, and digging out from under this year's CIL conference. The highlight of the conference for me, though, was getting to see Meredith Farkas, Michael Casey, and Laura Savastinuk sign their new books -- and see people's excitement at getting their hands on them.

I started this consulting editor gig with ITI just about 1.5 years ago, so Library 2.0 and Social Software in Libraries are the first two books I've been privileged to follow from conception through fruition. (And, what a way to start out -- in addition to being great writers, they're all lovely people!)

Sure, I'm a little biased, but it's exciting to see their ideas in book form, and I do hope they get a whole new audience excited about and thinking about these issues.

I have all sorts of conference-blogging type notes and had grand notions of posting them here, but I think others have beat me to the punch -- and been much more thorough -- on every session. What I appreciated most about this show, though, was the relevance and hands-on nature of most of the sessions. Seeing Darlene Fichter talk about mashups, I came away feeling that, hey, I could probably make some of this work myself. Seeing Jessamyn West talk about Firefox, I learned about some new extensions and add-ons that will help me at home. Just talking with people, from potential authors to random folks in the exhibit hall, I felt the energy of a group of people dedicating to using technology to make libraries better.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


More Free Books

I also have some library-related books received as review copies, some are dupes, some I just can't use. Ask for one, ask for all, these are free as in beer, I'll mail to you via media mail (so U.S. folks only, sorry). E-mail with what you want, very briefly why, and your physical address.

Small Change Big Problems: Detecting and Preventing Financial Misconduct in Your Library, by Herbert Snyder -- TAKEN

Less is More: A Practical Guide to Weeding School Library Collections, by Donna J. Baumbach and Linda L. Miller -- TAKEN

The New Woman as Librarian: The Career of Adelaide Hasse, by Claire Beck -- TAKEN

EScholarship, a LITA Guide, ed. Debra Shapiro -- TAKEN

Computers in Libraries: An Introduction for Library Technicians, by Katie Wilson -- TAKEN

Measuring Your Library's Value: How to Do a Cost-Benefit Analysis for Your Public Library, by Donald S. Elliott et al -- TAKEN

Library Relocations and Collection Shifts, by Dennis C. Tucker -- TAKEN

(edited April 18 --all books are claimed, thanks for playing!)



Computer Book Giveaway

I review computer guides for LJ (and, if you haven't picked up the RSS feed yet, you might want to, since the column's hard to find on their site). So, I have several stacks of books here, published between 2005-2006, that need to leave my house. These are not galleys, but actual published copies.

I'll mail one box of these books to each of three U.S. public libraries, no strings attached (although a donation receipt would be nice). If interested, e-mail by April 24 with the following info:

Contact name, e-mail, and physical library address
One paragraph on why your library could use a box of computer books
A couple of subject areas you could particularly use (e.g., Windows XP, A+ certification, podcasting)

The three libraries selected will be notified by May 1, and I'll ship out the books via media mail in early May. Feel free to pass this message along to colleagues.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007


Five Hundred Blogs

Just thought I'd say thanks to everyone who played along with the five non-library blogs meme. Or, perhaps I should curse you for giving me so many interesting ideas for new reading material! In any case, grab some of your own reading ideas by searching the fiveblogs tag or checking out some of the links from the original post, if you haven't been back to visit.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007


I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want

After listening to a little news story this morning about President Bush pushing controversial appointments through when Congress isn't in session, I've been thinking about entitlement, and the way it goes hand-in-hand with being proactive and taking responsibility. (My personal political biases aside, this atmosphere of "if you're not on board with everything we do, you're anti-American" and "if I can't do it one way, I'll circumvent the process" can't help but be harmful.)

Moving on, though, I see a similar sense of entitlement and attempt to blame others festering among some members of our profession. Yes, the impending shortage of librarians has been overstated. Yes, it's frustrating that desirable locations and areas around library schools are glutted with new graduates. Yes, entry-level salaries in many institutions are embarrassingly low. Yes, these are very real frustrations. Yes, institutions and professional associations should be proactive in offering internships and mentoring programs and broadening their searches and welcoming new blood and....

None of this is unique to librarianship. You'll see the same same "need experience to get experience" trap in lots of fields. You'll see the same rush to live in the same cities, driving costs up and making the job market tighter. You'll see English departments graduating BAs trying to get jobs in New York in publishing; you'll see humanities departments graduating Ph.D.s trying to get jobs, well, anywhere, or even going back for their MLIS, of all things. Complaining about being misled, or that the profession somehow fails new librarians, simply dumps all of the responsibility off of the individual and onto someone else, whether that be the ALA, or a given library school, or the media. While this may make a job seeker feel better -- "it's not my fault it's hard to find a job" -- it doesn't help anyone.

On newlib-l recently, someone posted an interesting job ad from Google. One response boiled down to "I don't have those skills, so this is irrelevant." Well, I don't know SQL either, but the ways in which opportunities for librarians are expanding is darn interesting, and I'll guarantee you SOMEONE on that list has the desired background. Instead of "this job ad isn't for me, so it isn't for anyone," it's more productive to look at multiple job ads over time. What are employers looking for? What skills can be learned through self-study, online workshops, coursework, just playing around with technology? What local libraries might be open to interns or volunteers? What skills, knowledge, or experience are applicable to the skills and qualities employers desire? What projects might help build name recognition? How to get involved professionally? Who might critique a resume and/or cover letter? Jobs don't fall in anyone's lap; no one is entitled.

In what appears to be an attempt at a pointed April Fool's joke, "unemployed librarians" posted this fake job ad to multiple lists a few days ago, and also attempted more than once to post it to While creative, this is less proactive than reactive; adding junk jobs to a database intended to help people find employment is less than helpful, and including a real person's e-mail address and phone number simply mean-spirited. Beyond the immediate implications -- we should all know by now that our online interactions affect our employment and professional prospects -- think of the time and mental energy expended in things like this. Think about what could be accomplished if that same time and energy were channeled in a different direction.

Finding a job is just the first step, and being proactive now the first step in being proactive throughout a career. If we're going to continue to remain relevant as a profession, we need first to take personal responsibility -- for remaining informed, for building something that goes beyond ourselves, for moving forward in our careers. Our institutions are nothing without their people; our profession is built from our multiple and ongoing contributions to the field. It's difficult to be proactive in moving ourselves or the profession forward if a sense of entitlement and a belief that we are subject to forces beyond our control permeates our careers.

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