Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Informing in Public

Today was a very Portland day - skies of various shades of grey and various levels of moisture falling from the sky. I continued my afternoon in a very Portland fashion - taking public transport to the Central Branch of Multnomah County Library. For a project on collection development, my partner and I are looking at how to provide an awesome collection to community-based recycling nonprofits in Portland (yes, we found that niche and we are working it). Central boasts a Foundation Center sponsored Nonprofit Resource Center. While it was a much smaller section of the reference section than I expected , it was still a wonderful grouping of otherwise very expensive grant materials and other guides. If you are a nonprofit in Portland, check it out. The librarians at the nearby desk are a great resource as well.

I should qualify that the section was probably smaller than I expected because I have spent far too much time in academic libraries, especially private institutions where the acqusitions budget is generous and consortia/ILL borrowing is plentiful and free to staff. For a library tech/future librarian, I'm a horrible public library user. My local library is a quick walk away, but I rarely go. The hours don't work that well for me and I really don't feel the need to go since I realized that ILL will borrow from that very branch if I need it. I feel I should be using the local library as a way to show my support since I don't pay property taxes or however public libraries are funded in Oregon... see, I don't even know that! Brushing aside a lame excuse like "the wrong hours", I really wasn't a fan of the public library atmosphere. The short video I posted a few days ago lists liking people as one of the main requirements of being a librarian. But I'm sort of ambivalent on that matter. I like the people at my academic library and I don't think I could cope with the variety of life that needs and uses a public library. I often think of public librarians as having the same sort of calling as a priest. They're willing to go out there and give and give to a insane range of people and cope with situations that would challenge a social worker. I admire the members of my cohort who have already decided to pursue this sort of work. It's just not work that I could see myself doing.

But I do need to say that it truly is important work. My first library job was in a small public library. My mother took us weekly to our local branch (where I'm pretty sure I checked out the same biography of Sitting Bull 30 times between the ages of 7 and 12. I had a mad fascination for him and Custer), just as her mother took her. My absolute fear of people (and my mother's own avoidance if possible) lead me to learning as much as I could about how to find and use materials myself. I think that experience informs how I interact with new ideas and technology today - poke at it and play with it and eventually it will reveal its secrets. As an adult (of sorts), I'm more willing to admit that I don't know and to ask for help. But I still completely emphathize with the reluctant patrons mentioned in my course readings, having been terrified on both sides of the desk.

Friday, February 20, 2009

One more down....

First, Armitage reading his poetry, including "Kid". I love the Yorkshire accent.

This might turn into a week of posting! Straight! With actual content (sort of..)!

I spent the evening holed up in the local branch of the local bookstore reading an interminable article from 1996 that called for librarians in the nascent days of the digital age to rebel against the oppression of the big publishing houses by taking back control over the publication and storage of scholarly work. Sadly, we're still paying obscene amounts of money to journal vendors for print and online copies of journals. Digital repositories aren't filling. The author of the article (I'll find the citation when I'm more awake and add it in) argued that libraries who undertook to challenge the presses would have to somehow replicate the prestige and the clout brought by publishing in specific titles. Unfortunately he didn't give a how and I think that's where the field is a bit stuck. It's easy to argue against vanity printing and to point out the success of small digital repositories in very specific fields. But how to suddenly recreate the name and pull of a Big Name Journal? It's not going to happen overnight, but the technology is changing overnight. The underlying basis for the clout, not the clout itself, needs to be challenged... not that I have a great suggestion as to how (which is just as useless as the above argument).

ETA: The article in question: Atkinson, Ross. 1996. Library Functions, Scholarly Communication, and the Foundation of the Digital Library: Laying Claim to the Control Zone. Library Quarterly 66: 239-265.

After finishing the article, I met up with a young woman who has applied to VC. She was lovely - bright, confident, articulate. I look back on myself at that age and can't imagine having that powerful a sense of self. I like to think I'm somewhat together now - note that I had a comfortable conversation with a complete stranger and lived to tell the tale. I just wonder sometimes what I missed out on because of my reticence, my shyness. Silly to wonder, really, but there it is.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Prawo Jazdy

This makes me inexplicably happy.

There's something appealing in the image of a man resembling my father's cousins tearing down the back roads of Ireland with his rebellion in his pocket.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Do you like books? People? Good!

The brilliant Stephen altered me to this fine educational film.

Love of books! Love of people! Love of cross-indexing!

A few things struck me about this film. Most of the librarians here are women. They're reading stories to children, locating books for teenagers, and whipping up catalog cards by the thousands. I believe there are two male librarians in this film. The first is asked to compile a scientific bibliography (about radar) and the second is a library administrator. Yes, this is 1946 and the glass ceiling was a bit lower. But I still see some of this today in the library world - more in terms of administration than in the bibliographers. Of course I lack more than anecdotal evidence to support this assertion, and there are a great number of fiercely intelligent and admirable women in leadership positions in the field, this still bugged me. I'm not even sure if that's even a complaint, because in this world of books and people, I'm by no means alone. For LIS 510, we read an article featuring a study on typical users of libraries. The typical user? Overeducated, middle-class, white and female. Yes! I am deep within my world, with my sisters in overachieving. But I wonder if I need to stop more often to think about what it must be like to not have 10 years of various library work experience, to be one of the few men in the program. What must it be like for my friends who are doing this program with kids at home? From the East coast? I need to remember what it was like to be a freshman too scared to use the reserve desk. I need to remember what it was like to sit and wait for that article that I needed yesterday. What is it like to be lost? To be displaced? To be angry? What is it like to be the person on the other side of the desk?

The second thing I noted in this film is that the field really hasn't changed all that much. If you ignore love of books (and I've yet to meet a librarian who isn't somewhat of a reader) and instead focus on the qualification of loving knowledge and lifelong learning, you're in 2009. Learning and people are still at the core of what we do as librarians. While shelf-list cards have bowed to MARC, the goal of technical services is to still create a tool to allow the users to come into to contact with the collection, with "the stuff". That attitude towards service, to trying to get out there to find what the patron needs so they'll come back and get more knowledge featured prominently in a class lecture a week or so ago. Documents change. Service types and tools change. But we're still trying to get the user to their blue book on television as best we can.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I read this today in Simon Armitage's collection Shout while taking a procrastinatory bath. It's not the subject that attracts me here (though it helps), but rather the energy, the pushing rhythm that leaves you breathless at the end.

Simon Armitage

Batman, big shot, when you gave the order
to grow up, then let me loose to wander
leeward, freely through the wild blue yonder
as you liked to say, or ditched me, rather,
in the gutter. . .well, I turned the corner.
Now I've scotched that ' he was like a father
to me' rumour, sacked it, blown the cover
on that 'he was like an elder brother'
story, let the cat out on that caper
with the married woman, how you took her
downtown on expenses in the motor.
Holy robin-redbreast-nest-egg-shocker!
Holy roll-me-over-in-the-clover,
I'm not playing ball boy any longer
Batman, now I've doffed the off-the-shoulder
Sherwood-Forest-green and scarlet number
for a pair of jeans and crew-neck jumper;
now I'm taller, harder, stronger, older.
Batman, it makes a marvellous picture:
you without a shadow, stewing over
chicken giblets in the pressure cooker,
next to nothing in the walk-in larder,
punching the palm of your hand all winter,
you baby, now I'm the real boy wonder.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A bag of rock salt

Like most people who claim to be of the geeky persuasion, I have a difficult relationship with George Lucas. The Star Wars Trilogy - the Original - ranked among my favorites growing up. I saved for the VHS box set and to this day will put them on when I'm sick or cranky or when background noise that's not Absolutely Fabulous is required. I listened patiently to his ramblings when required to watch The Power of Myth for a course on Arthurian legends. I just ignored the prequel trilogy (except for the third, which I saw with a friend while studying in London on a hot summer's day).

But now he's gone too far.

Because I ignored most of the prequels, I missed out on Jocasta Nu. Happily she was brought to my attention via a lecture on reference interviewing for my program.

She is the ultimate in old librarian stereotype. Let's run through the list:

  • Old woman with possibly witchy tendencies
  • Disapproving mouth and attitude
  • Tight bun, complete with sticks for stabbing out your eyes once you realize, Luke, she is your mother
  • The belief that all of the knowledge of the world (that matters anyway) is contained within her own collection and you are wrong, sir!
  • The willingness to say "Nope, nothing doing" after a 10 second interview.
Fantastic! I mean, it's not Lucas' fault entirely that he's relying on one note characters to not really progress the non-existing plot forward. Is it?

Annoying, but I won't kill him with a shovel at midnight.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Keeping It Positive

In an effort to remain on the happier side of thing, here is a semi-annual list of things that are currently made of awesome.


*The Elegance of the Hedgehog

*The glorious sunlight

*The run/walk I took with my husband in the aforementioned sunlight

*Amy Ray

*Postcards waiting to be mailed

*Nearly completed search assignments

*Getting a week ahead in reading

*Siblings visiting in April

*Dinner and hugs with good people

*Dickens (always Dickens).

Saturday, February 14, 2009

James I

The Husband and I are in the middle of what I like to call "Everyone Makes a Films About the Tudors, with bonus points for extra Glenda Jackson". So far we've seen all of The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Elizabeth R, Elizabeth (Dr. Who and James Bond chat on a beach!), and Elizabeth:The Golden Age. A few weekends ago we watched Anne of a Thousand Days and Mary, Queen of Scots. So much delicious period British drama.

The latter film got me thinking about James I, Elizabeth's successor to the throne and the Golden Age. He just seems ripe for dramatic adaptation, especially in a post-Freudian world. He had what I would consider a troubled childhood - mother exiled, father murdered, and you're King of Scotland by the age of one. He composed works on the ideology of monarchy, survived the Gunpowder plot and Spain. And then it all falls apart with Charles I.

But who to cast? Do we start with his youth or his ascension to the throne? Guy Fawkes would have to show up so people could go "Oh, that's that guyyyyy!" Do we go till his death, with some foreshadowing of the Civil War? Someone really needs to work this out for me. What has Alison Weir been up to lately?

The Morning After

There's a striking resemblance between a hangover and the heaviness that coats the morning after an anxiety attack.

There are the physical ailments. The skin on your cheeks is dry and itchy. Your eyes hurt - you're not sure how, but they do. You're probably dehydrated, so your head aches. As you drag yourself out of bed, you start contemplating international sanctions against alarm clocks, especially alarm clocks positioned on the other side of the room. You stumble into the bathroom to start the shower and make the mistake of looking in the mirror. Your hair is a gnarled mess. Your fingernails are essentially gone. You're half-dressed in whatever you were wearing last night. Your breath tastes terrible and your glasses are smudged. A long hot shower is all you want right now, followed by a soothing cup of milky coffee and toast. But you haven't the time. There's a bus to catch, a job to do on the complete other end of the city.

There are the emotional ailments. Your recollection of the previous evening comes back in bursts. You move alternatively through embarrassment and faint fear. You feel not necessarily fragile, but raw. The covering over your organs seems thinner, more transparent than useful. You don't want to be nudged too hard or all of the black bile from last night will come tearing up your throat. You want to apologize to anyone who saw you or dealt with you, but that would be too much. While brushing your damp hair your steel yourself for the day. You're not going to think about it. You're going to move on and pretend it never happened. Yes.

Thus resolved, you drag yourself out the door. You turn a deaf ear to that voice in the back of your mind and walk out into the cold morning sun which, even behind the clouds, makes your head ache all the more on your lonely trek to the bus stop.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Living in an Exponential World

So, I'm a little late to this video, but it's still fascinating. I think it really illustrates the problems that libraries are facing in an increasingly digital world (and it's not just Google) but also the new technology and types of users we'll be seeing. Once it's laid out before you, you can see just how rapidly our world is changing with each new development in technology. I remember the last day of residency and Stuart having to explain why the courses aren't as technologically based as he would like at times - because by the time we would graduate, our first year and a half would be worth next to nothing.

Makes me wonder what exactly it is that I'm getting myself into.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


I've been avoiding an update here as I couldn't think of anything appropriate to follow up the post on Sally. Talking about doing statistics in Excel or writing a book review on an Austen encyclopedia seemed inappropriate (though the Austen is Victorian... ish). But I know I just need to get something out here and then I'll be fine. So here goes.

Life has hit it's usual rhythm of the quarter. Sundays are spent tidying up assignments and then waiting for the last possible moment to hand them in (still need to put off seeing that green checkmark for as long as possible). The apartment is unearthed from a week of clutter in between. I am amazed at the sheer amount of stuff AK and I manage to bring into the apartment on a weekly basis. Today we gathered up all the soda cans and bottles that have been packing my entryway and turned them in at the story. We earned an obscene amount of money, but I don't think that will encourage him to take stuff in on a more regular basis. My friend Maria is due over in an hour or so with her child. Lasagna and Rock Band are promised enticements to bring them out to suburbia. Tomorrow we pay a very nice lady to do our very complicated taxes and then I file FAFSA and hope that I look suitably poorer this year than last.

All very grown up activities on the list (except the Rock Band). I was speaking with a friend of mine online the other day about how I keep wondering when I'll feel properly grown up. The years I've spent living on my own or with AK have taught me a lot. There's a change in how I act or think about things that markedly different from how I was 4 years ago or more. But when will things be right? When will life fall easily into place? When will I stop burning the bottoms of cookies, remember to floss twice a day, and cease spending hours on WebMD convinced that I'm about to die of some horrible intestinal cancer instead of just having an upset stomach? When will that clarity arrive so I can put aside all of this useless internal mess and be properly grown up? Turns out the answer is never, which is irksome but perhaps to be expected. A professor of mine once said that her 20s were awful, her 30s difficult, and her 40s magnificient. I'm just not sure I want to wait that long (again, part of the problem).

The wait to become a real librarian feels similar. I'm waiting for the day I'm a professional and suddenly the wisdom of the ages and Dewey will be open to me. But things seem to be moving along slower than that (not that I want to be job hunting in this economy). I've registered for ACRL in March, which is both an extra trip to Seattle (one I think I'll be repeating a week later for residency). My first Profesional Library Conference - a chance to pass out business cards, to gather up some swag, and the possibility of embarassing myself in front of roomfuls of potential future employers. Good times! I'll be travelling and sharing a room with the incredible Bonnie, so that should help things along. It's lovely to have someone currently in the field who is also a good friend.

So, that's a post started and done. Let's hope I can go on from here.