Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Librarian's New Year's Resolutions


I know what you're thinking: New Year's resolutions are so outmoded. People don't keep them, statistically speaking, so why even bother? The truth is, I keep more of mine than I break - especially the ones I've made in the last couple of years. Further, I find that letting others know that I'm trying to make changes helps me stick to the changes. I know my friends and colleagues wouldn't judge me if I backslide, but it feels like a promise I've made when I tell others... and that helps me stay the course. So this post is me letting someone know, and encouraging you to do the same.

In 2014, I resolve to:

Make more local librarian connections/friends. As has been written many places (including on this blog), administration/management can be a lonely business. I have some wonderful colleagues among the staff at my current college and have even forged some friendships with members of our faculty, but that isn't quite the same thing as being friends with other librarians. Besides, I want some balance.

Read more professional literature. A lot of the professional development reading I've done over the past year has been in the form of audiobooks, which isn't the most productive method since my commute is only 10-15 minutes. I'm going to carve out an hour or two per week just for more reading.

Write more professional literature. My blogging time is sacrosanct, but I want to get my voice further out there, so I need to find more time for this. Besides, there are some open access publications that are edited by librarians who I really admire (Leslie Reynolds is part of the editorial team at Practical Academic Librarianship, and Barbara Fister is part of the group at The Journal of Creative Library Practice), and I want to support them.

Make new mistakes. Lots of them. Don't get me wrong: I'm planning to succeed lots, too. I like to take risks, but they are always calculated. However, if I'm willing to embrace my mistakes - and learn from them - successes won't be too far behind.


Finally, I resolve to spend more time concentrating on my professional strengths (as opposed to my weaknesses). I just finished reading Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow, and the results I got when I took the associated test, the Clifton StrengthsFinder, were startlingly accurate. I like the idea of working with what I'm already good at, and finding partners to balance me - instead of trying to be all things to all people.

How about you? Got any professional resolutions you'd care to share?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

You, Me, and Social Media, by Virginia Alexander

I found that as a MLIS graduate student, I had few librarian connections. I wasn’t sure where to turn, or how to start making connections with library-minded people in my area and beyond. As I became more and more interested in social media, I started seeing the value of putting myself out there online and how connections through various online platforms could impact job opportunities, friendships, and networking.

2013 has been the year of cultivating my own personal brand of librarianship through social media and my current blog. Now that I have a year under my belt working with various platforms, I only wish that I had begun earlier and certainly wish I would have begun as a graduate student.  I’ve learned many things along the way, and want to share them with you.

What are you conveying to friends, colleagues, and possible future employers online?

Many times it is hard to understand what avenue to take on social media, especially for a young librarian or graduate student. Social media is meant to be fun, but it is also a very powerful outlet. We may feel like we are connecting on a one-on-one level, but it is important to remember there are potentially multiple people viewing your profile.

If you are just beginning your social media adventure or are thinking about revamping your current one, I would like to recommend:
  • START SMALL: As a librarian, I firmly believe that being on Twitter and connecting with other librarians from all over the world will help you not only learn more about your profession, but also do more at conferences, and develop a general understanding about provocative issues in the library field. Invest in learning more about an aggregator platform such as HootSuite. You can do certain keyword searches through various platforms such as #libchat.
  • FIND YOUR VOICE: As your skills as a librarian develop, this will become easier. I hope to convey what type of person I am through my Twitter account, and various social media. I know that this can feel like a sticky situation because you want to show your personality while still remaining professional in the face of potential employers reading your timeline. It is a fine balance. Remember that your who you are online is an extension of who you are offline.
  • FOLLOW THE CHAMPIONS: Whenever I start something I really don’t understand, I try to find the “champions” of that thing. Following PLA, ACRL, Courtney Young (ALA President Elect), and others that will guide you in understanding what is important in the library field.

Best Practices
  • NO FIGHTING: Always stand up for what you believe in, but in a non-aggressive manner. Proving your point and tearing someone down are two very different things. Remember, your potential employer, or potential co-worker, could be watching. Show them that you know how to defend your opinions rather than bombard the opposing viewpoint.
  • CONTENT: Understanding what you want to post about is a tricky cat to dress. Some librarians on twitter only post or retweet statuses that deal with librarianship or research. Some librarians only talk about their personal life, and some do a mix of both. For myself, I try to talk about things that excite me. I try to show other people what I am creating. I try to encourage others. As you move further into social media, what you want to achieve will become more apparent. Don’t force it.
  • DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY: I would say that this is the hardest one for me. Many times people will want to fight, or will want to unfollow for various reasons. You as a young (or just new) librarian must be able to understand that it isn’t personal.
  • STEP AWAY: Always know your limitations. Many times it is important to step away from social media. If you start feeling that overwhelmed, put down the device and take a moment. Chances are that you won’t miss very much. Social Media will always be there waiting for you to return.

The concept of Digital Citizenship is still fairly new, and also somewhat geared towards a younger audience. You have the opportunity to be conscious of the image you are projecting and instead of avoiding the subject all together, take the topic by the reigns and become king of your social media. You control your image! I can wager that you will find other librarian that have the same interests as yourself, and will be as lucky as me to find some wonderful friendships as well.

Virginia Alexander, also known as the SketchLibrarian, is an academic librarian in South Carolina. In her spare time, she enjoys drawing, crafting, and creating. You take a look at all of her drawings, library musings, and general hatred of interstate-driving on her blog, SketchLibrarian, Three things about three things. Please also connect with her on twitter @SketchLibrarian

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Still Reading


Professional reading... it never really ends, does it? Just as I finish an article or a book, I find five more that I should and want to read. Funny me, though, I don't mind. Imagine that - a librarian who likes to read. 

Nevertheless, I haven't had as much time for sustained professional reading this past year, what with getting up to speed on my new job. I have managed to sneak in a few that, despite the fact that they aren't library science specific (or because of that?), I think you might want to read.

Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie

I'm almost done reading this as part of ramping up to the in-person seminar with the rest of my cohort of the College Library Directors' Mentor Program. I had taken the StrengthsFinder 2.0 test previously, as part of the Frye Leadership Institute, but I'd never read the book. I'll tell you, I really like the idea of leading from your strengths - working with what you're already good at - instead of trying to be all things to all people. Truth is, we're all leaders, even if we are in the middle or bottom of the pecking order, so everybody could benefit from reading this book.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

The ideas shared in this book can be boiled down to six words: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, and stories, with the catchy acronym of SUCCESS. Reading this book changed how I communicate with my staff and my community. In fact, it has largely informed the new mission statement we are about to debut. Highly recommended reading for everyone, but librarians especially.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

If you had told me, even a year ago, that I was going to read and thoroughly enjoy a book about behavioral economics, I would have laughed. But that's what happened. Further, this book has shaped how I think about everything at work - understanding what motivates people, and using that understanding to benefit my community, has been a huge thing for me. It's a smidge long, at 512 pages, but it was worth the time I invested.

So, what all are you reading?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Elusive Gift for Giving, by Keri Cascio


The traditional gift giving holidays are upon us. But with birthdays and other events happening throughout the year, one question often comes up: “Who gives to whom, and how much?”

As a library manager, I expect that I or the organization will be the gift giver. I don’t expect to get gifts from my staff. And business etiquette says you shouldn’t give them to me. Alison Green of the Ask a Manager blog has written on this topic many, manytimes.

My first manager position was at a public library branch with about 25 (mostly part-time) employees. We didn’t have a birthday party rotation in place, so birthday gifts were at the discretion of friends and colleagues. We did try to celebrate the larger milestone birthdays as a branch. As a manager, I gave them each of my staff a high-end candy bar and a personal card on their birthdays. It was easy to catch everyone, as we were all working in one small building and there were staff lockers to drop off gifts early in the morning. It felt like it was a little thing that would make a big impact, and I believe it did.

The end-of-the-year holidays were much harder to deal with for me. I live a very secular life, and I don’t really celebrate anything unless family or friends invite me along. My first year, I bought everyone cute holiday socks and wrapped them in a small bag with candy and a card. I also bought the holiday ham for the staff party (and as a long-time vegetarian had no idea what I was doing at the HoneyBaked Ham store!). The next year I bought $5 gas station gift cards and candy, it seemed fitting as we had a QuikTrip location down the road and made regular drink runs. I had two full time supervisors who reported to me, and I bought each of them something more personal and expensive.

My staff bought me presents for the holidays and for my birthday. There was a group present, and also something special from a few people if they felt like it. I have to say that I never felt comfortable getting gifts from my staff due to the differences in position and pay scales, but I was also touched when they did it.

I currently work at an independent research library, and the atmosphere is much more conservative. I have four departments who report to me, with four direct reports and over 20 indirect reports spread throughout a very large building. Three of my departments get together for a monthly potluck birthday party, so I don’t do anything additional. December 1 was my start date, and I when I asked around that first year I was told that nothing was expected from me for the holidays as a supervisor. The library hosts a catered staff luncheon, and I’ve used that as an excuse not to do anything on my own. I don’t feel as connected to my indirect reports in this position, as I don’t see them on a regular basis. Living life “upstairs” and apart in administrative offices makes for a much different work culture.

I occasionally feel guilty for giving up the “warm fuzzies” I had in my previous job and stopping my gift- and card-giving habits as a manager. And at the same time I would feel strange just starting them up out of nowhere even though I know I could do that at any time.

If you’re wondering what to do at your own library, you really have to get a feel for the culture and follow your best instincts. Just remember that you don’t want to start traditions that become too difficult to maintain, whether due to preparation time or costs. I’ve heard stories of epic baking sessions and expensive presents that can’t be repeated year-to-year. My best advice would be to keep it simple, and keep it sincere.

Keri Cascio is the Director of Innovative Technologies and Library Resource Management at the Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering & Technology in Kansas City, MO. She previously worked at public libraries, a state-wide consortium, and an ILS vendor that no longer exists. She current serves on the boards for ALCTS and the Missouri Library Association. Keri was a member of the inaugural ALA Emerging Leader cohort in 2007. She earned an MA in Information Science and Learning Technologies, emphasis Library Science, from the University of Missouri in 2003. You can find her on Twitter at @keribrary.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

When Expletives Happen, Or, What a Maroon!

Recently, I had an interesting (and funny) interaction with a student at my library. I was heading out of my office when the student in question, who was sitting just outside my door, cursed loudly. He blushed when he noticed me standing there, and stammered out an apology. The ensuing conversation was fun:
Me: "Do you think I've never heard these words before? Do you think I've never said these words before?"
Him: "But not at full volume in a library."
Me: "I work in a library and have for years. Of course I've said those words at full volume in a library."
Him: *laughing, obviously more relaxed*
I wasn't lying just to make him feel better (although I will admit I might have, given similar circumstances). I do cuss at work. Not as much as I used to, now that I'm the Head Cheese in Charge (of a very small library), but [expletive] happens. There are the occasional expletives of frustration. I've also been known to throw a few choice bits into conversations with students who I know well (and who I know won't have a heart attack). There's even, from time to time, a certain hand gesture that could be mistaken for someone miming rolling dice, but that is actually something quite rude. 

The thing is, most people I know use off-color language at least occasionally. Also, almost nobody I know gets really gets offended at these words; they just get offended on behalf of others. Besides, if they can say "ass" on prime time television, I figure I can say it in my library once in a while.

How about you? Do you keep it 100% clean? Or are you known to cuss?

And because no discussion of this type is truly complete without a word or two (or seven) from George Carlin...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

So, You Want to Be a Hospital Librarian?, by Elizabeth


Medical librarianship is not something that is typically encountered in library school outside of a special libraries class, and even then it’s just a section of the class. So when I first started as a solo hospital librarian, I knew next to nothing about health sciences librarianship, and even less about hospital librarianship.

Hospital librarianship is different from medical librarianship because a hospital librarian is both a medical and a business librarian. There are no subject specialties in hospital librarianship; you are a jack of all trades. Hospital librarians typically work with a broad range of people including medical students, residents, physicians covering a number of medical specialties, nurses, pharmacists, administrators, and sometimes even patients and family members. Not only do you need to be familiar with the typical medical literature databases (PubMed, CINAHL, Medline Plus), you have to be aware of special resources like point-of-care tools, clinical trial databases, evidence-based medicine, and resources concerning the business side of health care, rehabilitation, chaplaincy, psychology/psychiatry… The list goes on and on.

Hospital librarians are lucky because our jobs are never dull. We bounce from one user group to another, researching a broad range of topics with many different resources. But that’s also what makes it so hard. You have to know a lot. You need to know the basics of research, database searching, customer service, cataloging, etc., but you also need to know how to interact with different groups of people. How to know the difference between the kinds of literature an administrator wants as opposed to what a physician wants. Further,ou must be able to do this quickly and with authority. If someone is coming to you asking “how do we do xyz to help this patient get better?”, you need to be able to find the answer, have a basic understanding of the answer, and be able to give the user your opinion. 

Hospital librarianship is a lot like business or law librarianship. Your user isn’t interested in how you got to the answer, what database you used, or how to do it themselves. When someone calls you from the OR because the gastric bypass conversion went wrong or the colon isn’t where it’s supposed to be, a hospital librarian gives the surgeon the answer, plain and simple. There is no time to bombard the user with lots of information and details. A hospital librarian must always be aware that at the end of every search, of every PubMed lesson, of every article ordered, there is a patient, a real person who needs help.
Another thing to be aware of is that, unless you are very lucky and work for one the premier research hospitals, hospital librarians work either by themselves (like me) or with a very small support staff. Hospital librarianship is perfect for someone who can’t pick a specialty. Hospital librarians do reference and research obviously, but they also do the collection development, the cataloging, and the marketing. A hospital librarian is very often the director, the interlibrary loan librarian, the page, the electronic resources manager, the copier repair person, and tech support. In one day, a hospital librarian might attend a meeting with the president and chief medical officer of the hospital, join a group of clinicians on patient rounds, spend two hours making copies for various people, repair the fax machine, edit a powerpoint presentation, dust the library, and barter with a vendor over the price of a database.
If you are considering a career in health science librarianship, but want something beyond being embedded in the undergraduate nursing program or staffing the desk for the medical school library, take a look at hospital libraries. If you never considered anything related to health science and/or didn’t know that hospitals had libraries, still give hospital librarianship a thought or two. If you like juggling multiple projects at once, enjoy research, are not squeamish, like having autonomy and running the show, and are interested in the future of medicine, being a hospital librarian might be a good fit for you.

Elizabeth, better known as Lizy, is a solo hospital librarian living in the Heart of Dixie. In her spare time she enjoys reading romance novels, baking bread, and watching marathons on Netflix. You can check out all her ramblings on cooking, dating, traveling, home-owning, kitty parenting, and occasionally, being a librarian on her blog, Adventures in Life, Love, and Librarianship. She also tweets all the randomness that doesn't make it on her blog as @LibrarianLizy.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Puppy Power!: Therapy Dogs in an Academic Library

I ran a therapy dog event last week. It went so well that this blog post will probably sound much more gushy happy than I've ever sounded, but really - I knocked it out of the park with that event.

In case you aren't aware of this idea, there are lots of college and university libraries that bring trained, certified therapy dogs during stressful times of semester (for my school, the event happened during the week before exams). The point of these events is basically for students to pet and play with the dogs.

How did it go at my library?

  1. The dogs themselves were fantastic. Some were lap dogs, others wanted to play. All were sweet and gave boatloads of love to the attendees.
  2. The volunteers who brought their dogs were wonderful, too. All of them talked to the students - asking their names, majors, where they grew up, etc.
  3. The turn out was astonishing. When the dust and dog hair had been cleared, and all the counts counted, I realized that over 10% of the student body had come one or both nights. I was especially happy to realize that most of them were freshmen.
  4. I saw, and got to talk to, many students who I've never seen in the library before that event. One student was telling me about his dogs at home, another talked about possibly changing majors. They were in the library and relaxing.
  5. The best part? Student reactions. I overheard one student say, "This is the most fun I've had at college." Another clapped her hands, danced a little, and said, "yay!" when she got into the room where we held the event. One student wrote "DOGE" on the sign in sheet as her reason for attending.

I could cite research and talk procedures of running these events all day, but there are others better sources for that kind of information than my blog. If you're trying to get an event like this started at your library, let this post serve as the answer to why these events should be done.

My biggest bias in my work is towards the needs of the students, and bringing therapy dogs in served their needs in spades. Puppy power!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

First Thursday's Just For Fun: Owl Always Have Eyes for You

When Waterstones made their announcement about their new delivery service, I felt like they had me in mind as a target audience.

It's worth clicking the link in that embedded tweet to see the Q & A about this new "service" of theirs, but here's the important bit:

If I didn't recognize this announcement for the joke it is, I'd move to within delivery range lickety-split, that's how much I love owls. Let me repeat that: I. LOVE. OWLS.

I love the small ones:

Saw-whet Owl

The ginormerous ones:

Eurasian Eagle-Owl

Fictional ones:

And ones that only seem fictional:

I love them OWLHow about you?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tomorrow's Problems

"Thinker on a Rock"

This weekend I finally got around to reading a Harvard Business Review blog network piece that was published last year, "If You Were the Next Steve Jobs..." by Umair Haque, and it has me thinking lots of thinks. Two of the five problems he identifies are places where libraries have got it all over big business - areas where we excel. The other three, however, are places we need to work. At least that's where my thinking has gone, so I wanted to share:

The first problem identified by Haque is Singularity. This is the one place I think libraries differ from big business. He asserts that they know how to do things on a big scale. Libraries, on the other hand, aren't always the best at scaling up. The good news is that we do know how to do the opposite. Librarians are the kings and queens of singularity; making a difference for individuals is our bailiwick. Maybe big business could learn from us for a change.

Another area where libraries have got it going on is Sociality. We may not always understand how to do the social media thing, but we do know how to build relationships with our community/customers/patrons. Individualized readers' advisory and research assistance, study spaces appropriate for large groups and small groups and individuals, and programming for all ages. We've got relationship building covered.

As for the issues I see us having in common with Hague's typical audience...

Spontaneity is a huge problem for us. Even at small libraries like mine, there are still hoops to jump through. And what's worse, we are so inured to it that we don't always notice how stodgy we are. I know there are good reasons for checks and balances, but they get in the way as much as they help. For instance, it startled me when my last job called me within days of my interview to offer me that position, because I'm so used to academic hiring practices going glacially slow. Don't even get me started on the reactions I get from librarians who work at research institutions when I tell them it took me six months to get a new program started - "How did you get it done so quickly?!"

Synchronicity is another problem we face. There is so much "Us vs. Them" thinking in libraries and academia that it can be impossible to work together. I'll admit even I fall victim to this one. I do my best to build relationships across my institution; I like working with student life and academic affairs and even athletics, trying to build consensus with students from across disciplines, etc. What's best for the college is important to me, but I'll admit that I fight tooth and nail for what the library needs and wants. If I'm not careful, I can get deeply into "Us vs. Them" thinking when it comes to budget planning.

Finally, and this is a big one, he discussed Solubility. In Hague's words: "the biggest lesson — and the one hidden in plain sight — is this: creating institutions capable of not just solving the same old problems, forever." From buildings that were finished just before laptops became a thing to libraries and librarians jumping on memes that are sad and out-of-date, we are too often behind the curve. From graduate programs to individuals to the institutions where we work, too many of us are solving yesterday's problems. Looking forward instead of back is one of the biggest reasons I look outside of libraries to see what's coming, because if businesses are dealing with it now, sure as shootin' I'll be dealing with it soon.

I still have lots of ruminating to do, but the point of Hague's piece, of solving tomorrow's problems instead of yesterday's... Well, that's an idea that has a lot of appeal. I'm not sure if the problems Hague lists are the problems of tomorrow's library, but they are a place to start. What do you all think?