Scary Stories About Librarianship

It was 2010, and I was in library school. At a dinner, a retired librarian told me that getting an MLS was a terrible idea. Jobs were few and far between, and the positions that were available were undesirable. It was scary in there- I should stay away.

It was 2012, and I was finishing my MLS and attending my first ALA, working on the vendor side. Another library ghost story – a well-meaning librarian warned me against taking a job with a vendor because I would never get a job in a REAL library. Vendors were evil and corporate, people with degrees who worked at vendors were greedy and not REAL librarians.

In 2013, I became a coordinator, and a former classmate pointed out a blog post from a library personality to me. I spent errant hours considering if I had made a catastrophic mistake, whether such positions are secret hexes laid on bright-eyed up-and-comers by evil stepmothers administration.

In 2017, I accepted a position at an institution where I don’t have faculty status. A colleague who is faculty told me it was tantamount to career suicide.

I am here to kill your boogymen, librarianship. I know you warned me about them with the best of intentions. I have climbed to the top of a pile of what you told me were bad ideas and from this vantage point my observation is this: your fears and anxieties, while valid, are stress-inducing and sometimes poorly presented to those of us newer to the profession. Your assumption that we should make different choices speaks to the privilege of later career. All of early career is risky and choices are limited.

I am now in midcareer(ish), and it has taken me more than five years to discover that what lies under the profession’s focus on shouting “here be dragons” isn’t functionally about supporting or informingĀ  newcomers. On the positive side, it’s about critiquing power structures, but it’s also about reinforcing widely held negative viewpoints which can make organizational change even harder. Our fears and anxieties become contagious and self-perpetuating.

Here’s how I approach giving advice from my experiences:

  • I don’t encourage people to get an MLS without talking about how the job market is difficult and offering to serve as a mentor, advisor, and reference.
  • I don’t tell people that moving from the vendor side to the academic library side is easy, but I do tell them the pay is good and that the academic libraries you want to work for value diverse experiences.
  • I loved my work as a coordinator, both times I did it- I loved the challenge of building relationships and creating services. And
  • That valuable experience that put me in a position to move into a role as a department head, helping to make the right professional and financial decision for me personally. And making decisions informed by your own needs, desires, and experiences is the best anyone can do.

TL;DR: Be informed, don’t be afraid.

 

Advertisements

Transparency, Empathy, Empowerment: Reframing Recruitment in Academic Libraries

I have long been critical of our hiring practices and interview models in academic libraries. I have sat on the interviewer side on many occasions watching candidates struggle and flounder, and it’s not their fault. It’s ours.

I have often wondered- what do we think we are measuring by putting candidates through a grueling, repetitive process? What skills or capacities are we hoping to assess that can only be ascertained through a day of grilling and interrogation punctuated with a keynote address presentation? I have been increasingly frustrated by how our coded hiring practices burden, exclude, and disempower candidates, particularly candidates of color and first generation students, how we create opacity around hiring processes, and how we fail to make human connections.

Recently, I have been trying to think through the best means to leverage my newfound power as a department head to challenge traditional hiring practices which must be acknowledged to be well-intentioned but exclusionary at best, racist, ablest, and classist at worst.

Like many, I’m tired of describing the problems in academic library hiring processes (whiteness, privilege, and homogeneity run amok), and I want to act to disrupt them instead, already, now.

That’s why I’m proud to be a part of the work at University of Rochester’s River Campus Libraries, where we’re moving from hiring and interrogation to recruitment and conversation. Please join me and Rochelle Mazar, our Assistant Dean of Academic Engagement, for a twitter chat about our open job opportunities.

#workatRCL

9/11/2017 – 12-2 PM EST

 

Hosted by Rochelle Mazar (@rmazar)

and me (@linds_bot)

#workatrcl 3 owl

Spoiler alert: This is not enough.

But I think that we can at least begin to lay a groundwork for a kinder, more humane, and more productive process. It’s an opportunity to ask us questions and learn more about the opportunities at RCL, and it’s also a chance for us to receive feedback.

I hope you’ll consider joining us for this discussion, and that you may consider joining the team at the River Campus Libraries! At a minimum, it’s your chance to turn the tables and put us on the spot.

Please do!

Note: If for any reason you are unable to participate in our chat through Twitter, you can submit your questions here or via email. I’ll be posting the full Twitter chat transcript here following the event.

It Takes Guts to Be Gentle and Kind

You may never have met me in real life, and at times in creating this professional portfolio site I’ve wondered how much my personality has actually permeated. Do you know that I’m a joyous sort of person, inclined to chatting and boogieing to music while doing my work? I am. I’m a laugher and a gift-giver and a good friend and colleague.

Since the election, however, I have been grieving and fighting. I am continually anxious and angry but I still have my usual exuberance. It’s a heady mix that has meant I have been plunging ahead because only with the passage of time will our national nightmare end.

It’s been a rough year, dear reader. And in between pausing to worry and springing to action, I have been experiencing unprecedented professional success and recognition. I considered making a timeline of events so you could see how my recent accomplishments brutally coincided with national events, but that seems self-aggrandizing. My accomplishments are so small in the face of these injustices, and I am unable to parse my personal from my political.

So I won’t.

Instead, I’ll leave you with the Smiths, whose chiding lyrics have been my touchstone as I try to move to a more sustainable mindset for the duration of what looks to be a nasty few years. I am with you in it. I am listening to sad songs and trying my best.

 

Feminist Hacktivism

One of the real delights of librarianship, from my perspective, is the varied work which lends itself to so many different styles of projects. Recently, through a UH Libraries Microgrant, I was lucky to be able to volunteer at a sponsored Feminist Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon.

The goal of the event was to encourage participants to edit and create Wikipedia entries. The event encouraged both female engagement by creating a space and training opportunity for women Wikipedia editors and encouraging editing and creation of pages for women on Wikipedia. This is an effort to confront the many aspects of gender bias on Wikipedia. I was (and remain) deeply inspired.

Which is why I want to encourage you to start editing Wikipedia too. It’s a great hobby- a real stress reducing activity, I would argue. If you’re a librarian, you probably already think about citations and sources in your free time. Why not weaponize that free time to encourage gender equality in the most widely used open source encyclopedia?

UH has created a great tool for getting started. Check it out! Get editing!

Collection Data Visualization

Here are some resources I have recently helped develop to facilitate and support the growth of a community of practice around Collection Data Visualization. Please use, enjoy, and collaborate.

Collection Data Visualization Wiki – A collaborative workspace for us to share and discuss standard visualizations and templates.

Data Visualization from Scratch LibGuide – A learning object with the example datasets and visualization examples I employ in the workshop of same name.

Charleston Conference Recap and Resources

I am currently working to put together a data-visualization-for-collections listserv and wiki, but I am happy to share my powerpoints, resources, and LibGuide from the preconference and presentations I delivered at the Charleston Conference.

Data Visualization from Scratch Preconference LibGuide

Rolling with the Punches…And Punching Back: The Millenial Librarian’s Approach to Library Budgets and Acquisitions

Collection Dashboards for Selectors Presentation – Collaboration with Wenli Gao