Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My (On Purpose) Mistakes


There's less than a month before the new school year, and I've got a lot of ramping up to do. Part of that, because I've got a frozen position and work at a small library to begin with, is getting ready to do a lot of information literacy instruction in the coming months. (Not that this is really a problem, since I love teaching.)

All this means that I've been thinking about what has and hasn't worked in the past, and how I can apply those ideas to a new setting. Of course, I've written about this a lot in the past. I was an instruction librarian for my entire career before this position, so that is probably isn't a suprise. But I realized that the one thing I haven't discussed before is my policy about making mistakes.

And here it is: in every info lit session, I make sure to make at least a couple mistakes.

Why is that? Well, here are my reasons:
  • If I make a simple mistake, like a spelling error or clicking the wrong button, I can show students how to recognize it when they make their own inevitable errors.
  • Further, I can also show them how to recover from their own mistakes.
  • Which means that the person/people to whom I'm teaching whatever tools or skills will feel more comfortable experimenting since they know they'll be able to overcome setbacks.
  • And it also means that I seem more human and approachable.
I'll admit it took me years to feel comfortable doing this. At the beginning of my career, I was mortified by the slightest misspoken word. But really, I think showing students how to recover from mistakes is one of the most important things I can do as an instruction librarian. Technologies and interfaces change, but comfort with experimenting and learning from mistakes are transferable skills.

How about you? How do you feel about making mistakes when you're teaching?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Overcoming Gaps, by Jill Hames


Let me give you a little background before I get started: I finished library school in May 2006. I started my first library job in May 2012. What did I do in those six years? For five of them, I traveled in the United States, working seasonal, non-library jobs. (My reasons for traveling aren't relevant to this post, but I'm glad I went.) From August 2010 to April 2012 I searched for a library job.

When I began applying for library jobs, I realized the application skills needed were different than those I knew. I began to think of seasonal work as a previous career and applying for library jobs as a career change. The process of applying to libraries felt more formal than I was used to and I was unsure if my application materials hit the mark. In a case of getting in my own way, I am shy about showing people my work, so I didn't ask for help. Instead, I read advice from all over the Internet and made mistakes that make me cringe even today. Avoid my mistake and ask for help from people who know what they are doing.

That, of course, means you must know people who know what they are doing. When my last seasonal job ended, I was determined to get into a library, one way or another. I asked at a local community college about volunteering and was given the director's contact information. Intellectually, I know library directors are just people, but emotionally, I dislike using the phone, never mind calling "scary" people. I called anyway, stuttering something by way of opening.  She quickly grasped the situation, "You want to get your foot in the door."

I blushed at how crass it sounded, but agreed. On September 1, they set me at the reference desk, signed me into a computer, and left me on my own. I spent hours getting familiar with the collection or running searches in the databases. When I saw something I thought I could do, I asked, and normally received permission.

I greeted each staff member every time I came in. Initiating small talk is difficult for me, but in time they began speaking to me first. After a few weeks, the library director gave me projects. Things progressed from there and when, over a year later, they needed a temporary librarian, they asked me. Moreover, I developed a working relationship with a librarian who has worked in both public and academic libraries and has recently been on hiring committees. He gave me advice on interviewing, but I was too uncomfortable to ask him to look over my written application materials.

Through creating volunteer opportunities for myself, I learned that when you want to do something, formulate a plan that will require minimal effort from the organization, decide what you can offer the organization, and then ask. Sometimes, when you present your plan, the answer is no. Sometimes, the answer is yes, but things don't work out satisfactorily. Sometimes, things work out better than expected. The only way to find out is to try.

I was getting library experience and developing professional relationships. Now I had to convince people that I wasn't a job hopper. If anyone took the time to look at my job titles, they could see that the jobs were designed to end after a few months, but if they only looked at the dates, all they would see is an average of two jobs a year. Maybe nobody cared, but I worried about how all those dates looked. Applications that required only a cover letter and résumé were a boon. I could put the focus on my skills. Applications that required a complete work history meant I listed over 20 jobs in 10 years. I can't help but think some automated system or human resources person took a look at that, labeled me as unreliable, and tossed my application. Maybe it didn't happen, but I wonder.

Most frustrating were enticing openings that required the applicant to have graduated in a specific year. Once, I wrote a cover letter, making the case that I qualified as a recent graduate, regardless of my degree date. The day after the opening was posted, it was taken down, so I never got to find out if my argument was convincing.

Personally, I'm glad I took the time to travel. Professionally, it might not have been a good choice. I could argue for all the things I learned about working with people or quickly adapting to new situations, but realistically, I don't think those skills without recent library experience are enough. [Editor’s note: This isn’t across the board. If you can sell yourself in the cover letter, explain how you’re a good candidate even though you might not fit their listed requirements, and show how you’ll be an asset, you could still get a call. I’ve seen it happen.]

I don't have any sure-fire answers on how to get hired, but I will emphasize this: decide what you want to do and find a way to do it. Try to make things easy on the people you ask for help, but find a way to do what you want. The way you find might not be what you first envisioned, but take what you can get. The process might take months longer than you want; keep asking until you find a way in.

Is it easy? No. Will you occasionally feel you've made a fool of yourself? Probably. Is the benefit from success worth the mistakes? Yes. Now, I'm not saying be obnoxious or be a salesperson. Use your best judgment on how hard to push. Even so, if you have a plan of what you do and don't want and can explain how your help will benefit the organization, eventually, you should find someone who says yes. Transitioning between careers is hard. Don't underestimate how difficult it will be, but if you want to work in a library, find a way to work in a library.

Jill Hames is a public services librarian at a small town library. She has her own blog, The Learning Librarian.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Librarian Win(s)

I noticed something a couple of weeks ago. I noticed that I'd fallen into a pattern of complaining, snarking, and generally concentrating on the negative things that have been happening at work lately. Floods and maintenance issues and weather and such range from mildly aggravating to full-on crazy making, so I'm not faulting myself for complaining about events. It's just that lots of good happens, too.

So I've decided to make a point of tweeting about the wins and other good stuff as well, and in that way to spread some happy. I'm planning to do it daily, but I'll admit I already missed a couple of days. Regardless, going forward I'm going to share at least one #librarianwin per work day.

Here are a couple that I already shared:

I'm not the only one who's used this particular hashtag, and I'm hoping I won't be the only one using it in the future. We all have plenty of frustrations (funding issues, amirite?), but we also have plenty of wins. I, for one, plan to be just like Kodi up there. I plan to announce my wins.

What do you all think? Are you with me?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

So, What is a Resident Librarian?, by Annie Pho


A year ago, I was a fresh graduate from library school. I was eager to join the profession and put my education to use. I was so busy from applying for jobs, prepping for interviews, trying to write for professional development, and being involved with committees; I thought I was going to die. If you’re looking for a job and trying to stay involved in the field, you know that stress. Then, I saw the perfect job, worded just for a new graduate like myself: a resident librarian position at a university. I knew I wanted to be an academic librarian, and here was a library that wanted someone just out of school. Perfect! Fast forward to today, this is the position that I’m in now.

The biggest question I get about my job is “what is a resident librarian?” Simply put, it’s typically a 1-2 year position geared towards new library school graduates. The aim of a residency like mine is to give new graduates the chance to work as a professional in an academic library, getting experience that will help them get a job later on. Often times, as a new grad looking for employment, you’ll notice that many jobs ask for a couple years of experience. If you do a residency, then by the end of your program, you’ll be qualified for those jobs no problem!

Resident librarians have a variety of job duties that they can do, depending on the place they work in. These kinds of positions are also sometimes referred to fellowships, but they really are the same thing. However, residency positions vary by institution. Some are designed to let the residents work in every department of the library so that by the end of their program, they have a well-rounded idea of how to do everything in the library. Other programs, like my own, have residents in specific library departments for the entire term. One of the most important things to keep in mind if you end up in a program like this is to know what YOU want out of it.

The way in which the program will be as much about what you want as it will be about what your employers want, the freedom to explore your professional interests, is an important difference between doing a residency and just going into your first professional job. Prior to starting my residency, I was a part-time reference and instruction librarian at a community college. My job duties were spelled out for me, and I spent much of my limited time at work making sure I did my job well. That meant that I didn’t have as much time to be mentored by my peers, or time to explore information literacy ideas, or other creative projects. Now that I’m in a resident position, my work has given me the time to figure out what really interests me in librarianship, while also benefiting from the good ideas that my co-residents come up with for our library. It’s a win all around.

If you’re a new graduate and you are looking for a job, I recommend applying for a residency. The support you’ll get from your institution is phenomenal, and I don’t just mean a pat on the back for showing up for work. Residents are expected to be engaged in the profession, attend conferences, present posters, etc., but the work load has an upside. It means your institution gives you funding, time, and support. If you do end up in a residency position, I advise you to keep your focus on some tangible goals. Complete a research project or something else that you can brag about once you’ve completed your program. Be strategic about when you say yes. It’s easy to get over enthusiastic about a million projects, but in the end you’ll need to prioritize your time. Lastly, I try to find at least two mentors: one at your institution and one elsewhere. This is something that I think every librarian should have, regardless of work experience. It’s always nice to have a go-to person to ask for career advice or bounce ideas off of. 

To learn more about resident programs or check out job posts, check out the ACRL Residency Interest Group website.

Annie Pho is an Academic Resident Librarian at University of Illinois at Chicago in the reference and instruction department. She likes cats, bikes, and web stuff. You can find her on Twitter @catladylib the occasional post on her blog.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Day in the Life Redux: Director Style


I recently had an interesting conversation with a colleague. The conversation started with me giving her an update about the flood we had in the basement of the library. Yes, you read that correctly: flood in the library's basement. Among other things you'd expect in a library basement, do you want to guess where our archives is located? You got it: the basement.

When I first learned about the flood (thank the deity of your choice that there were some students working in a basement group study area, otherwise we might not have noticed for a while), I ran - a full out sprint - to get down there. You see, the holdings of the archives were mostly dumped in that basement room, with very little organization and lots of cardboard boxes sitting on the floor. I've been slowly making progress since I started working here, trying to figure out what the heck is even in there and to get things up off the floor. So when I heard about the flood, my heart sank. I needed to get things up off the floor, no matter where, immediately. (Before you judge me for having things on the floor of an archives located in the basement, please remember I'm still in my first 6 months of being a library director. I've got a bazillion other hats to wear, so I've only been able to devote about 8-10 hours to working in the archives so far.) To make it all humorously worse, I was wearing a skirt and a cream colored shirt during all this physical and wet labor.

Flash forward and things have turned out for the best. Those students who first noticed the water helped me move the boxes. Our maintenance department came, in force and almost immediately, to help us stem the flood. And when I checked things yesterday, I was pleased to find my suspicions confirmed: the only items we really lost were cardboard boxes. Almost nothing that had been in the boxes even got damp, and there was no permanent damage.

After I was done updating my colleague about the flood and subsequent events, she joked in response: "I'll bet you never thought you'd be doing this as a library director."

I laughed, but not because I didn't expect it. Quite the opposite, really. Okay, no, I might not have expected to be dealing with a flooding basement, but I've always known that being a library director at a small library is all about doing whatever needs to be done. Cleaning up when a toilet overflows, and shoveling snow, and toting and hauling wet boxes are all as much a part of my job as writing grant applications and information literacy instruction and marketing. If something needs doing, and I'm the only one around who can do it, then it qualifies as "the director's job."

To expand this point, anything can be part of a librarian's job. You may or may not have the "and other duties as required" clause in your job description, but it's pretty much always implied. Actually, those "other duties" are a big part of why I love this profession. How about you?

(I know there's not an official Library Day in the Life Project going on this summer, but I still tagged it that way.)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Libraries, the Universe & Everything – a Letter to a Younger Me, by Ned Potter


Dear 25-year-old-me,

It’s January 3rd, 2006. Tomorrow you start your new job as a Customer Services Assistant at the University of Leeds Library, UK. The bad news is, you’ll be commuting every day to an entry level job on a ridiculously small wage. That’s what comes of having a humanities degree, eh? The good news is, you’ve found your calling. Here are some things to watch out for over the next seven and a half years.
(That’s the first major headline, by the way. You thought libraries was just a temporary thing, but it isn’t. Okay, read on.)

You won’t believe how much you care about libraries
Previously you’ve been fairly indifferent to Libraries. Pro-library of course, in a not-really-thinking-about-it leftie liberal kind of way, but you don’t really go to them much. Or at all. In fact it is people like you who libraries aren’t attracting but potentially should be – you’ll often think back to how you felt about libraries in 2006, so get an insight into what is realistic in terms of attracting new users.

Anyway, you will start to care about libraries a LOT. You thought you were going to segue into Careers Work from here, but it turns out library work is a lot more interesting than you’d ever imagined (a common theme among your peers, you’ll realise, in about 3 years’ time when you wake up and finally get online). You’ll love working in HE, you’ll really enjoy the contact with the students and being on the cutting edge of learning technology. But you’ll also end up caring about public libraries, special libraries, school libraries as well. Bafflingly, despite being inherently lazy and having had exactly 25 years of massive underachievement, you’ll care about libraries so much it’ll cause you to work really hard, including sometimes in your own time, at home! Imagine that.

You’ll care about librarians even more
Between first getting online in 2009, and finishing your book in 2012 (I know! WTF, right?), you will invest an enormous amount of emotional energy in libraries, and after that you’ll settle down a bit and take a step back. But what never dims is your passion for librarians. Or more broadly, information professionals – and professionals here refers to anyone in the profession, NOT people with degrees. (Don’t even get us started on that.)

The best thing about librarianship, by far, is the community. Info pros are defined by their kindness, their willingness to help and to share, their sense of fun, and their love of gin. (You don’t like gin at this point – sort yourself out and start drinking G&Ts instantly. This letter will seem more insightful and entertaining the more gin you drink.) [Editor’s note: This guy is clueless. Real librarians drink vodka. Or bourbon.]

Going to library conferences is FANTASTIC. Particularly ones around New Professionals – new profs are generally defined as people who’ve entered the profession within the last 5 years, and even in 2013 when you’re most definitely OLD, you still love the new prof events the most. The energy, the optimism, the positivity! It’s great. Because fundamentally, it turns out that you can seek out the people who have the same outlook on the profession as you do – the world doesn’t all think like the people in your office. And that’s a great thing. Twitter, which hasn’t been invented yet (buy shares in it if you can) is going to allow you to be part of a network with likeminded people who work in the same profession as you, and to interact with them every day – you won’t believe how brilliant that is.

You’re going to have to do another Masters
Sorry about this. But it turns out – we really should have foreseen this – that a Music Masters doesn’t really lead to increased employability. And there’s a ceiling in Librarianship – around the second or third job you get – beyond which it’s very difficult to progress without a Masters in Library and Information Management, or similar. So as soon as you secure your second job in Libraries, in 10 months’ time, you’ll agree to do the Masters via Distance Learning. And though you don’t think the degree itself is up to much (and will later grow to dislike being complicit in a system so obviously flawed) you’ll be glad you have it because it’ll allow you to progress to what is known, irksomely, as a ‘professional post’. Professional posts pay quite well, so although you’re on naff-all money now, you’ll be fine in the end.

The upside of all this is you’ll be a Master of Science! Given your Science GCSE grades (2 Ds) you’ll find this hilarious. Take that, Mr. Mallaband the Chemistry teacher who said you were the most frustrating student he’d ever taught!

You waited too long to get online
Half way through 2009, librarianship goes from your job to your vocation in a day, more or less. You go to the inaugural New Professionals Conference in London (turns out you love public speaking, which you did NOT see coming…) and it’ll open your eyes. One of the papers is given by Jo Alcock who, it turns out, is something of an online pioneer. In 2013 EVERYONE is online, but the migration was still happening back then. Jo’s talk about her blog and Twitter activity makes you think you might like to try something like that. Events which subsequently happen and which can be directly traced back to that decision include: getting dream subject librarian job you aim for all along, getting to travel to other continents to give presentations, writing that book, doing some consultancy for the Latvian Ministry of Culture… I know, right? Wtf!

(You’re probably wondering why 2013 you says American things like ‘I know, right?’ etc. Well, it’s sort of done ironically. But also not, really. Because you communicate in a very American way, generally. More than half the traffic to both your blogs comes from the US. You’re friends with lots of North Americans generally. You speak the same language. But also, you’ll learn over time that the right people will appreciate you – it’s okay to be yourself and lose some of your audience by saying things like ‘I know, right?’ because there’s enough people out there who’ll understand where you’re coming from.)

So really, the first two and a half years of your professional life were fine, but your horizons would have been a lot broader if you’d been online from the start – if only as a consumer of blogs at first, later becoming an active participant in the community. Knowing you are part of something bigger is a hugely powerful thing.

Twitter will be the single most important tool for your CPD
CPD means Continuous Professional Development. You will LOVE Twitter (the first Tweet will be sent 3 months from now), despite resisting getting on there for YEARS, even after starting blogging, because you were too narrow-minded to understand it. But Twitter will keep you up to date with what’s going on, give you a constant source of ideas and inspiration, and tell you about new tools to try. Without Twitter you wouldn’t have been able to get your current job, write your book; do anything good, really.

You’ll have quite strong views on what we should be doing in the profession
Your dislike of conflict has not gone away so this occasionally causes some stress when you’re saying things people don’t want to hear, but it’s nothing major so you’ll do it anyway. Because you’re passionate about libraries and librarians, you are vocal about what you believe to be important. This includes:
  • Communicating our value PROPERLY at every opportunity. Librarians can be backwards about coming forward, but this is no longer acceptable – we have to make it explicitly clear how we can help people do things better / quicker / cheaper / more efficiently or whatever it is. We need to talk BENEFITS, not features. We need to talk services, not content. As Stephen Abrams (you don’t know who he is yet, but you’ll love him) put it just yesterday in 2013, nouns (books, buildings, desks) can be cut, can be warehoused, can be replaced from other sources. Verbs (engage, serve, DO) are the impact that we as librarians provide, and that’s what will – hopefully – keep most of us in jobs.
  • Embracing informality. Libraries tend to communicate in a rather austere and formal way – this goes back to the need to be respected and taken seriously, to have professional integrity. However, it IS possible to be professional yet informal, and communicate more effectively. Approachability is so important to building relationships, and relationships are essential in librarianship.
  • Trying to inspire people rather than placate. Librarians and libraries are inherently quite cautious and have a massive in-built fear of offending or alienating anyone. This partly comes from the moral duty libraries have not to exclude groups or demographics. However, simply not offending people is NO LONGER ENOUGH. That’s why we’re in this mess. (Oh did I mention libraries are in a mess? Tomorrow morning at 9am, your first day, you’re officially stepping on to a sinking ship. But that’s not as bad as it sounds – it’s an inspiring challenge and it’s invigorating to fight for something you believe in.) To get more people to value libraries, we need to inspire people – and it is difficult, if not impossible, to inspire anyone if you’re catering for everyone.
  • Understanding that work-life balance is important enough that it should not be considered with reference to what ANYONE ELSE IS DOING. By which I mean, a lot of people in the library community seem to be sort of super-librarians who do EVERYTHING, which scares some info pros – but the only thing that matters is finding a work-life efficiency that works for YOU. Whatever makes you happy.  There are no standards by which any of us should judge if we’re doing ‘enough’ except our own. In other news, it turns out saying ‘no’ to things, even great opportunities, is absolutely fine. Never once will you really regret it. Also you don’t need to be a martyr to this profession. There are prominent voices online who would have you believe that if you’re not out protesting against library closures, you don’t deserve to be a part of the profession. This isn’t true. Everyone is different. There are still many things in your life much more important to you than libraries.
  • Libraries have always been product orientated, but now they need to be market orientated. Ah, marketing speak. You’ll try and avoid it, but it’ll slip in now and again. Libraries have always been about books – you want books, go to the library. That worked for centuries, but now the information books contain is available through myriad other sources. So being based around a product – the book – doesn’t cut it anymore. We have to be based around the market; to survive we need to provide what people need. This means listening, anticipating, being brave. Fear-based librarianship has a very short life expectancy.

Okay, this letter is far too long already. You need sleep before the big first day. You’re about to start a journey which will be several times more awesome than you could possibly anticipate. As of tomorrow, you’ll no longer be an aimless slacker, because you’re about to stumble into a profession that will make a man out of you.

Have fun!

Ned Potter is an Academic Liaison Librarian at the University of York, as well as a trainer and presenter. He tweets @theREALwikiman, blogs at thewikiman, and recently published The Library Marketing Toolkit.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

"Friend" vs. Friend: The Politics of Social Media

Before I begin, I want you to know that this is not about anybody with whom I'm currently friends on Facebook, have circled on G+, follow on Tumblr or Twitter or Pinterest, or [fill in appropriate noun] on [corresponding social network]. This is an post idea I've had for a long time, and I'm finally comfortable publishing it because time has passed since the situation that inspired it.

Well, that's not entirely true. Some recent events brought this idea back to mind. You see, it finally happened. I've been at my new job since the beginning of February, and I finally felt comfortable sending a few Facebook friend requests to new coworkers. These are all people who I consider friends as well as coworkers, but it took a while to feel comfortable in that way. I didn't send or accept friend requests for what, in the life of the web, was a very long time. I'm very protective of my Facebook presence because I like the fact that everybody with whom I'm Facebook friends is someone with whom I'm really friends. But that wasn't always the case, not with jobs I've had in the past. I've never had problems saying no to friending certain people (like students currently taking a class from me), but I do have a hard time saying no to coworkers.

Why is that? I know this won't be news to most of you, but social media can be very political. A senior faculty member - someone who makes you want to pull your hair out of your head in real life - sends you a friend request, you can't really turn it down. Especially not when you're friends with every single other member of that full professor's department and you're trying to get that full professor - who happens to be the department chair - to help you further integrate information literacy into the department's curriculum. (Not a real life example, but close.) So I've said yes to lots of friend requests that made me uncomfortable, to becoming "friends" with people who made me want to scream "no."

And "friends" make me filter myself. Unconsciously I'm sure, but sometimes even consciously. Don't get me wrong. It's not like I'd otherwise complain about a fight I had with my brother's ex-boyfriend's dog catcher (not even close to real life since I'm an only child) or that the Chief Paperclip Officer at work is being extra stingy with the binder clips. It's just that I'm less likely to post political or controversial things even though I firmly believe in speaking my mind, and I don't enjoy that feeling of self-censorship.

I'm sure that, as things continue to progress at my new job, I'll eventually get friend requests from people who aren't friends. I'm still not sure what I'll do. The easy way is to accept the requests and then filter those people to within an inch of their lives, but I'm not sure that's the best answer either.

What do you all think?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

First Thursday's Just For Fun: Fat Acceptance

I don't know how "fun" this topic is, but I have gotten in the habit of publishing something more typically bloggy, more personal, on the first Thursday of every month. And this is a topic that is very personal to me.

Source Unknown

You see, I'm fat. And before any of my lovely readers/friends try to tell me I'm not: stop. I'm not saying I'm lazy or stupid or any of the other negative connotations this word has acquired over the years. I'm just saying that I have a good amount of adipose tissue on my body. I say "I'm fat" with the same intent as "I'm female" or "I'm five foot four inches tall." It's a fact about me. I've been big almost all of my life and, judging from the way my mother's built, I came by this fat in the most honest way possible - genetically. The thing is, for a long time - most of my life really - I thought I could outsmart genetics. I hated my body for decades. I even managed to succeed at the weight loss game for a while in my early and mid-thirties.

Found on Tumblr, but I don't remember where.

But the truth is, I felt like hammered crap a lot of the time when I was at my lightest adult weight. I even had a doctor tell me not to lose as much weight as I did, prior to the diet that was successful, telling me it would be unhealthy for me to weigh that little (which still wasn't "skinny"). Boy oh boy was he right. I did manage to keep it off for a while, but it eventually crept back. I've weighed more than I do right now, and I've weighed less, but I've weighed about this amount for a few years now. I've gotten off the yo-yo and I refuse to diet ever again. I won't do that to myself because if I have to starve myself to fit a media inspired concept of "beauty", it's not worth it. It feels kind of subversive to opt out of self hate, especially since it's a government sponsored pass time these days. That it is tinged with subversion makes accepting my body fun.

Source: Lilo & Stitch

Now, I eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm not. Not to say I never eat between meals or eat things that are "bad" for me, but how many people can honestly say that they never eat "bad" stuff, fat or skinny? I exercise whenever I can, although I hate exercising for its own sake. Rather go on a hike than run on a treadmill, any day, and I do go hiking as frequently as I can manage. And finally, I've come to realize that my body looks like it's been lived in. I've gone bungee jumping and have hiked mountains. I've stayed up late to attend rock concerts and have gotten up early to watch the sunrise. I have lived a (mostly) good life, and the parts that weren't "good" were hella fun, and it shows. Not that I never struggle with self image, but I struggle less and less as I get older. This body has served me in good stead, so why would I hate it?

Chubby cheeks and double chin, on display. The Rad Fatty in her natural element.

Want to be subversive, too? Here are some websites I like on this topic:

Health at Every Size
National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA)
My Happy Fat (a frequently NSFW Tumblr)

One last thing: I didn't plan this for Independence Day on purpose, but I do like the serendipity of it. Let freedom reign, right?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

It's Not About Seeing, It's About Being Seen


I've talked about how libraries and librarianship is a service oriented/people profession in the past. I've written about handling difficult patrons, pondered where the customer service/pedagogy line should be at the reference desk, why I know my customer service skills from waitressing have made me a better librarian, and about the need to keep gossiping down to a minimum while in the public eye. Some might say that I've talked about it enough already, ad nauseum really, but there's something I've been considering lately that I think needs to be discussed.

And here it is: if the library is open, the circulation desk needs always to be staffed. Period. End of story. What's that? You think this is a no brainer? I know it might seem that way, but I see empty circ desks everywhere I go. I know there are tasks to be done off desk and that it can be hard to concentrate on the desk, even when there's nobody about, but I also know that being at the desk isn't just about taking care of the people who are there. More than once, I've heard "but I can see if there's anybody there" as a defense for sitting in an office and not at the desk. I heard this even before starting my career in libraries, all the way back to a previous life when I was an assistant manager at a fast food restaurant. (For the record, I'm not saying you shouldn't go to the restroom or grab something from your desk or show a patron where something is in the stacks. I'm realistic. But if you're going to step away for a moment, make sure it really is just a moment.)

The thing is, staffing the desk is not about you (or another member of the library staff) seeing the customer/patron/community member. Well... it's not JUST about that. It's also about you being seen by the customer. Think about it this way: if you don't have an urgent question, are you really going to go hunt someone down? Or are you just going to assume that nobody is available and skip asking all together and not even approach the desk? Would you expect more from someone in your community? We need to do more than *be* available. We also need to appear available.

To my way of thinking, appearances count, hugely. Perception *is* reality for our customer base/community.

Or am I completely off the mark?