winning of the mind, persuasion

Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Dear Internet,
I came up with another project last week1 which prompted me to do cursory research for a couple of days to see if what I came up with was:

  • Needed
  • Desired
  • Doable

And I am happy to report, for my own edification at least, this project could be sustaining. The downside is with the other stuff I’ve got going on, it’s going to take at least 3 – 6 months to get it off the ground. It could be sooner but I want to give myself ample room.
I digress.
A theme I kept coming across as I searched and read was many of these websites / blogs were also businesses. Many of them sold ecourses on how to monetize your blog (among other things) and how to gain readers while tempting you with free ebooks if you just joined their list. I, of course, signed up for a few free ebooks and free web courses to see what they could teach me about jump starting my blog to gain new readership. Most of it was stuff I’ve picked up over the years and kind of went “eh” on implementing it since I was and still am not interested in monetizing, doing product reviews, lifestyle, or something along that ilk with EPbaB. That wasn’t EPbaB’s purpose. The purpose was to use it as a personal, albeit online, diary and to connect with other people.
You know. A personal blog.
But even with that very simple purpose in mind, finding like minded souls has been harder than necessary and I want to fix that.


Five years ago (!), I wrote about an identity crisis I was having, at the point, about EPbaB. I had been very open about my life from the start until around 2006 when TheEx and I started dating but writing about my life then didn’t have as much hold over me because I was out having a life! The break-up in 2008 was messy and the reason to not write as I was having a life morphed into I was too consumed with library school and work to have time to write about woe is me stuff. The need to write, however, started appearing again and I decided to concentrate on library school instead as talking about school was a much safer bet then anything else.
Upon graduation in 2010, I found myself at a loss on what to do with the site other than a few updates here and there. I was also at a loss what to call it since I had held on to The Lisa Chronicles since the site’s inception but I knew I needed a change.
For about a year I bounced around ideas with friends and the internet on the new site’s name. I was still writing, albeit haphazardly, but I was still a bit adrift in the internet wind for a name and a purpose. Things had changed considerably since 1997. If you have a “personal blog” now, you are also hawking printables, DIY, jewelry, or life coaching. Everything was a business and nothing I read felt genuine anymore.
In 2012 I went to England and as I was walking through the gift shop at The Globe Theatre, I ran across a badge that had a bear with the words, “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” encircling said bear. I knew the saying was an odd stage direction from A Winter’s Tale but as I stood there with badge in hand, the more I rolled over the name in my head, the more it sounded like the perfect name for a site. It’s absurd, which I often am, and literary, ditto, and it sounded fun to imagine and say.
Which brings us up to today.


In the early days of the internet, traffic on my site wasn’t bad. It was, in fact, much better then the traffic driving to my site now. This is odd in the sense I am not only more prolific now but also more well known, at least in the social sphere. If my goal is to connect with others like me, then why wasn’t I finding and connecting with those people since I have a much larger personality?
The answer may be it’s not all of my fault. A recent stat given is we hit 1,000,000,000 websites in 2014 as compared to the 33,000 sites in 1994. In 1997, I was one of the very few people doing what I’m doing, the word “blog” wasn’t commonly used, and the word “journal” was used to label us online memoirists.
Now, no one uses “journal” or “diary” when they write about their life – everything is a “blog.” And if you’re not using “blog” in your site title, URL, or somewhere high on the landing page, you’re fucked if you’re sole purpose is to write an online diary. Like me.
Now most websites live for 100 days. In the late ’90s, they lived for 44 days. An increase, obviously, but with the proliferation all over the place, all it takes is a few well placed keywords and you’ll have a site in the top of the search results fairly quickly even if the shelf-life of that site is that of a mayfly while lesser known sites, like mine, kind of hang out in the peripherals.
(Plus we cannot forget the esteemed plaintiff used my legal name all over the web which lead to many of my hits going to him as his sites come up in the top rankings.)


EPbaB has 48 readers on Feedly, 3 readers on Bloglovin’, about 300 subscribers via other RSS readers, 28 subscribers to the mailing list, 21 people subscribed to the monthly list, and 163 likes on the Facebook page. Lastly, I have nearly 3100 followers on my personal Twitter account.
(Despite the super low stats on my blog, my twitter account has 1500% more followers than the average schmoe. This begs to the question: Are websites dead if we’re getting our new and info from Facebook and Twitter? Someone go do that study and report back. ALSO! Am I just funnier and more engaging on Twitter than I am here?)
(I can also tell you when the plaintiff’s lawyer mentioned EPbaB during the cross-examination and alleged I was so influential I had heavily tainted the plaintiff’s career. I laughed heartily, which is hard to do when you’re doped up on four mg of Klonopin, but heartily I did.)
Despite the low traffic, I adore my little website that could and I want others to enjoy it too. I am proud that I still carry on the tradition I started of writing my life online. Not many people are doing that much anymore without some kind of agenda and I think it is for that very reason most hang around my life. So another balance is how do I keep true to me while wanting to bring new peeps into my world?
The mission of EPbaB is to provide personal stories (mine), anecdotes (also mine), and a safe space for people who have similiar interests. The only thing I’m selling here is myself (and I don’t come cheap).
Did I mention I’m terrible at selling myself? The solution is how to sell the site without selling my ethics down the river. I want people to read but because they find me entertaining and insightful, not because i lured them with free eBooks or naked pictures of myself. (Though I do believe I tried that oh so many years ago…)


What does all mean for EPbaB? Short answer: I want more people to read me. Longer answer: To connect with me and feel like they are not the only ones in this world who have like minded inquiries, questions, concerns, and feelings.
How do I plan on doing this?
Taking a cue from all those lovely lifestyle bloggers, I am going to implement (or try to anyway), the following courses of action:

  • Studying my heat map for the site over the last few weeks, no one clicks on the “subscribe” or “contact” links. I’m then going to
    • Pull those links off the menu on the left hand side
    • Add a footer (as seen below) to all new posts
      • Continue using the footer (see below) to advertise how to read, follow, or to buy my book (Only $.99! On Kindle!)
    • Open up commenting again in Disqus
  • One of the reasons people aren’t finding me, or at least my site via topic, is I am not following good SEO. For example, I always use some kind of quote or word or something for the subject line of the post (see today’s as an example) which tells you NOTHING about what the post is about. Via a SEO app, I can make the title (what shows up in your browser tab) applicable to the content of the post. The subject line will say, “winning of the mind, persuasion” while the title will say, “The Direction and Rebranding of the EPbaB Blog”. Search engines index the title of the page first before they get to the subject line of the piece.
  • As much as I detest it, use the word “blog” when appropriate in the title and in the first few paragraphs to get properly indexed by search engines
  • Use applicable keywords in the first few paragraphs of a piece, again for search engine indexing
  • Use an image to in the beginning of each post.
    • Why? When cross-posting to Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, and Pinterest, the image will catch the eye rather than a long string of text
  • Be judicious on using social media.
    • How? Single post to Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, and Pinterest but after initial posting on Twitter, set up two auto-posts on Twitter, one in the morning, one in the afternoon, to gain more traffic
  • Instead of writing 2000 word behemoths, break them up into 750-1000 word chunks. A girl has a lot to say but not everyone has time to read what the girl says.
  • Revive the monthly mailing list
  • Continue emotional vomit here except for librarianship (that’s at lisa.rabey.net) or writing (that’s at lisarabey.com).
    • Why? Glad you asked! A few months ago I called Reputation.com to find out how much it would cost to clean up my online rep as the esteemed plaintiff and news sites writing about the case were keeping a girl down. I was a “very difficult case” and it “could be a long term campaign”. How much for this privledge? $25K. Yes, you read that correctly That’s $25K per year with a two year minimum. I laughed not heartily but hysterically when they told me this. I already knew what they were/are going to do and the results would be the same and I’m sure as fuck not paying $25K to give them the privilege. lisa.rabey.net  was 5 or 6 in the first set of search results and now it’s number 2 thanks to the fact I’ve been blogging over there on a consistant basis since January. I figure if I do the same thing with lisarabey.com, that will also drag that site up from 10 to who knows. Both Twitter accounts are now showing up and I’m determined to shift more shit around to get that front page free of vermin. In short, Reputation.com can go fuck themselves.

That’s the crux of what I’m doing and it’s all mostly backend so you won’t (really) see a difference when you read me.  I was already posting images, albeit haphazardly, on the blog so that won’t be a big switch. And I’ll never ever use ads on this site. Ever. Never. Ever.
The adorable trainwreck that I am will remain the same.
xoxo,
Lisa

This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2013


1. I counted the other day; this makes said project project 10. 10 fucking projects I’m rotating through. What in thee fuck.

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How To: Become a Library Future(ist) – part i

Dear Internet,

How do you become a library futurist?

Easy. You let others do the research for you.

This is, scout’s promise, not a dig at anyone.

Total pinky swear.

Let me explain.

“What is the future for libraries?” is one of the most popular question I’m asked in interviews. I have a couple of pat answers which are gleaned from the conversations I see on Twitter and mailing lists — but those are getting tired and repetitive.

My secondary answer comes in the form of, “I don’t know. Each library is different, has different needs, and plans for their future. It’s not always maker spaces and nerd nights. The future of libraries, therefore, is flexible. Libraries can be anything they want to be.”

Or something along those lines.

But that answer is also getting tired (and is also a cop out).

What really is the future of libraries?

First, it seems many ideas of what the future holds is related to technology. so let’s start with that first. TechCrunch, Wired, TheVerge, and ReadWrite are the main sites you’ll want to RSS or visit on a near daily basis. You’re going to see overlap between these four (and similiar) sites so don’t be afraid to narrow down to only one or two blogs to keep current.

Why?  I once posited reading tech sites had a better return value of keeping up with the profession over reading professional literature (and much cheaper):

While plowing through mailing list emails one day, a conversation erupted on the “value” of professional journals and magazines, meaning that what is the point of spending several hundreds of dollars for a personal subscription to LibraryJournal when a print subscription to Wired, which some consider more relevant for librarinating, is only $10?

Second, on top of tech sites and blogs, you’re going to want to look at places for special interests you have such as UX, Digital Humanities, or social mediaWhy? Academic articles take roughly 6 – 18 months from submission to publication. By that point, there are already several incarnations of whatever passing on by, which makes the article dated as hell. This is not to say you shouldn’t read those professional publications but you want to make sure you have complementary content in the mix.

In addition to the usual library land publications (too numerous to list and I’m sure you have your favorites), I’m fond of the list of journals found at Researching Librarian.

So you’ve got the sites / blogs / magazines, there is a lot of content — how do you determine what exactly is going to be the future for libraries?

Easy. Look for patterns of subjects across those sites and how they will work within the library ecosystem. Within a couple of weeks, I pulled enough content (which also coincided with chatter across Twitter, Facebook, and mailing lists) to come up with a solid list of nearly a dozen things we’re going to see in the coming future of libraries.

  • Security / Tor / Encryption  Who? The two people who come to mind in library land in this area is Alison Macrina (founder of The Library Freedom Project) and Ian Clark (radical librarian, politico, and curator of  surveillance.infoism.co.uk). What? TLFP’s goal is to “…make real the promise of intellectual freedom in libraries. By teaching librarians about surveillance threats, privacy rights and responsibilities, and digital tools to stop surveillance, we hope to create a privacy-centric paradigm shift in libraries and the local communities they serve.” This work is especially crucial  to keep libraries on point with ALA’s Code of Ethics, specifically article iii, “We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.” Clark is especially passionate about privacy (in all forms), surveillance, and inclusion in a post-Snowden world. Why does this matter? Macrina’s, and Clark’s, goals is to hold library associations accountable for their statements in regards to intellectual freedoms as well as educating libraries and patrons on those rights. As more people continue access information on public networks, the ability to protect that information is huge.
  • Library as co-working spaces Who? Me! What? If you’re unfamiliar with co-working spaces, it’s a shared space for those who may typically work from home or on the road and need a singular location to work. For a small membership fee a month, the co-working space provides food/drink, wifi, unlimited printing, boardrooms, parking, and a whole lot of other perks. (I found that using a co-working space tends to be significantly cheaper than using coffee shops or other areas for work.) Why does this matter? Co-working spaces have become de riguer for 21st century work force. If you were paying attention, many of these things are things already provided at libraries, so what’s the difference? For a nominal fee every month, users can get expanded services (unlimited printing, better wifi, locker location, snacks/drinks) with free services already available such as access to databases and the stacks. Most public libraries I’ve seen already have the infrastructure in place to handle this addition so the investment could be minimal AND it’ll (eventually) pay for itself with the nominal fees being charged AND if you get them in them in the library, you’re going to see an increase in circulation and programming PLUS it’ll be on trend with what communities will be looking for from their libraries.
  • Geospatial / Geolocation Technologies Who? Academic libraries. This seems to be either a popular requirement in positions or its own position. What is it? In the broadest sense, geospatial technology is mapping of the earth’s features using GPS and running analysis against the data. Why does this matter? In many of the positions that have the title of “geospatial librarian,” they tend to work with the earth sciences departments and analyze / provide references to maps and other components, which makes sense. But for (most) other libraries, the use of geospatial technology is to map out the library’s stacks and other accouterments to make it easier for patrons for find materials down to where on the shelf or in the physical space where the item is located. Nearly every interview I’ve had that had this “preferred” requirement, they wanted this project completed within a year. Ha. Ha. Ha. As libraries continue to grow their technology, expect them to require GIS related education (of course they will) as a way, they think, to remain relevant.

Here’s the thing: one of my original pat answers in interviews, “Each library is different, has different needs, and plans for their future.“, remains true. You’re going to find all type of libraries, regardless of size, trying to cram the future to fit them, even if it has nothing to do with their community or purpose, to remain relevant.

Come back later when I have more thoughts on library futurism such as copyright, social media, digital preservation, internet of things, and a whole lot more.

 

 

How To: Do something (anything) to enhance your skill set

Dear Internet,

In the last six months of job hunting, I’ve begun paying closer attention to the fluidity of the requirements of positions. While my background is  pretty diverse, I wanted to start thinking more of becoming a specialist in a few areas rather than just being an overall jill of all trades.

(Yes, yes, I know I ranted about unicorn / blended / full stack librarians and how it is bunk (still is bunk) but girl needs to pay her bills and the profession doesn’t move that fast.)

Part of the problem in having a huge variety of interests is they’re closely related fields so there is a lot of crossover but this is slowly not becoming a problem as I start breaking out the pieces I was most interested in and fitting them into a puzzle I can better understood.

After going over my interests, it became pretty clear what I wanted to do, as much as I loathe to say these two words, is to become a full stack developer. I want to know the back end of the server but I also wanted to learn how to develop and optimize the front end too. I’ll be writing more about how I’m doing on these things the upcoming weeks as I continue to sort and shuffle to make it work for me.

(And how you can do most of this training for free.)

For today though I want to to give you an idea how to get started if all or some of things interest that interest me and might interest you. Fill out the comment box below if you have more suggestions.

Back End
I’ve done some back end server stuff a million and a half years ago but that stuff is getting beyond rust. I keep it on my resume as most places want to know you can understand and move along the command line, write a few scripts, typically things many of us can do in our sleep. I wanted to reboot my back end education and this is how I’m starting:

  • Step one: Buy a book on linux. Yes, yes, I know there are a trillion and a half websites that will teach you a-z of linux, but I am a tactile as well as a visual learner. I need a book next to me when I’m working so I can take notes and what not. If websites work for you, awesome. I will probably use them for troubleshooting and quick reference.
    • I recommend The Linux Command Line for a couple of reasons, even if you’re familiar with using the command line already. This is a thorough walkthrough from setting your terminal shell to writing scripts. Caveat: Do not buy a flavor specific book (Redhat, Ubuntu, etc). While 95% of the commends work on all flavors, that 5% will get you if you buy a Ubuntu book and you’re working on Redhat.
  • Step two: Download VirtualBox, a virtual machine software. Some like VMWare or, if you’re on a Mac, Parallels but I found both to be clumsy and / or resource intensive. Things may have changed in the last few years since I looked at them, but they left such a terrible scar on my soul I refuse to use them.
  • Step three: Download your flavor of linux. You’ll need to download the ISO separately from VirtualBox but you’ll install your flavor within VirtualBox. To clarify: VirtualBox doesn’t come with any OSes and you’ll need to get them separately. Which I suppose I could have just said outright.
    • Choices are: Ubuntu, CentOS, RedHat and a metric ton more. You’ll want to make sure you’re downloading the desktop version for your experimentation. Now that you have a virtual machine, you can download variety of flavors to see which one works for you.
    • What’s the difference between the flavors: Think of cars. Every car on the planet has similar set up: four wheels, an engine, doors, steering wheel. What makes them different is design, size, and features. That’s exactly the same thing for the differing flavors of linux.
  • Step Four (optional): If you need something beyond books or websites, look for online classes. Udemy has classes fairly cheap but I found their classes to be hit or miss. Linux.com has suggestions. If your library has a subscription, Lynda.com also has pretty intensive courses.

Front End
I use “front end” to refer to not only the coding but also the organization of information, how it works, and its accessibility. These are a lot of different whole positions in themselves but I’m curious as hell about all of them. There is a lot going on here but just so we’re clear most librarian positions do not expect you to have expert knowledge (they may say so but really, what they ask for and what they want are two different things) in any or all of these things. Most will refer to front end as strictly web development / coding. If you decide to work outside of library land, YMMV.

  • SEO Search Engine Optimization is easy to learn but with libraries difficult to implement. The basic idea behind SEO is to better improve your site’s rankings in search engines so you can be found, but with libraries it becomes moot as most people use “name of city library” in their search bar and the first hit is usually that city’s library website. What SEO can do for libraries is optimize their sites for accessibility, which is important. It’s also a good skill to have if you’re looking to consult or move out of library land. Some things to know:
    • There is currently no industry standard certification on SEO. If you find websites that claim to get you industry certified, it’s bullshit.
    • Be weary of sites that want you to download software, even free, as most of them are ad ridden, unneeded, and only for Windows. A lot of the tools, if not all of the tools, you’ll need are already available online.
    • SEO Beginners has a good list of sites to read if you’re interested in keeping up with the hows and why of how search engines work, the research, the techs, and new techniques. (Google’s algorithm changes enough that what works for SEO in one version won’t necessarily work in the current version.) I read moz.com and searchengineland.com on the regular to keep abreast of changes and news.
    • Books are hit or miss. Mainly miss and mostly bunk. As of July 2015, a lot of SEO books just cull information from the internet, slap it together as an eBook, and call it a day. Don’t be fooled by most of the books that have high rankings — you’ll notice a lot of them are not verified purchases (which if your book is only available on Amazon and in eBook form — how in the hell are these people giving A++ stars?). I do recommend Adam Clarke’s SEO 2016 eBook. While I originally gave it three stars, his amiable response and updates were significant enough to move that up to a 4.
    • You can take classes at Udemy and there are a ton of free ones. The ones by moz.com are going to be legit since they are the SEO experts but look for highly rated popular ones to step your toes in.
  • Social Media This is more of my expert area as I’ve been writing, using, and lecturing on social media for years. What I’m more interested in is not what is popular and what the youths use in so much as what social is (ir)relevant to libraries, how to manage and produce content, and getting started. My stance has been, and will be, not all social media is for all libraries. I’ve fallen off the wagon for this but bookmark the above page if you want to get updates on the regular, which I promise to do.
  • User Experience / User Interface / Information Architecture These are fields I’m really interested in and the ones I really need more instruction on. I have given introductory talks on very, incredibly, simple introductions to UX, but a lot of what I’ve gleaned over the years has been listening / learning from experts. Smashing is a very good resource. Listen to the LibUX podcast which is run by twitter friends Michael/Amanda for talks, resources, and more. The holy grails on UX/UI are The Design of Everyday Things and Don’t Make Me Think. Amazon has a wide variety of books on UX, UI, and IA. I have the first edition of Information Architecture (looks like I’ll have to update), which is also a holy grail. IA is typically tied in with UX/UI in a variety of fashions (mainly usability).
  • Coding I will freely admit I am eating crow on this topic. I postulated for years not every librarian needs to learn how to code to work in tech (and why I get my knickers in a knot when a lot of the librarian tech stuff is mostly coding), and while I still maintain this to be mostly true, I’ve conceded I need to learn how to code. Something. Right now I’m mainly interested in HTML, CSS, Javascript, and Ruby on Rails.
    • First, I’m going to sing the praises of teamtreehouse.com. My local library has a subscription to the service (and they also have a subscription to Lynda.com), so for me it’s free. Their classes are fantastic, well organized, in-depth, and some places (Like CodeLouisville) consider them to be a standard for learning. Plus the instructors are professionals in their field, not some Tom, Dick, and Harry who can put up a class on Udemy. Treehouse also has a large variety of coding  tracks (WordPress development, Ruby on Rails, etc) that are comprised of variety of classes within those tracks. Plan on spending between 25-40 hours per track. Don’t be an idiot like me and do 40 hours over 3.5 days for reasons. They are going to include tracks on soft end development like SEO and currently have a track on starting your own consulting firm and digital literacies. And if my library dumps Treehouse, I am going to cough up the $25/mo to get their service as I love them that much.
    • Second, in addition to Treehouse there services like Udemy, UdacityLynda.com, and others have loads of free (and cheap) classes to take on a particular language. Lots of languages (I’d hazard most if not all) have classes/tutorials set up already on their or related sites.
    • Third, if you’re going to code, hie thee over to cloud9, a cloud based development workspace. You get one work area for free in which you can run one whatever at a time. e.g. If you install and muck about WordPress, you won’t be able to install the environment for Python. You’ll have to scrap your WordPress workspace to do Python, but hey!, it’s free. (They also have paid tiers which allow you to upgrade to more workspaces and so on.)

Additional jazz

If you’re going to program/web dev/whatever, you’re going to want to find a local geek/nerd/hacker space. L-ville has CodeLouisville (where I’m going to be taking in-person classes on front end web dev starting in the spring) and as well as a few other hacker spaces. Almost every city I’ve been to has some kind of *space where you can muck about, learn new things, and find your peoples. If you search MeetUp, you should find specific groups, e.g. Louisville Linux, where you can meet people, learn something, participate events, and so on. Last but not least, find mailing lists of what you’re interested in to keep you fresh on what’s happening in that thing. Alternately, you can get updates from their websites via RSS or mailing lists as well.

tl;dr

I’ve covered a lot of ground today but this should give you a good idea of where to pick up training, information, and etc if you’re interested in any of my topics or you can use these techniques for your own interests.

As mentioned, I’ll be updating over the upcoming weeks on projects and things to keep me on track and so nosey people can follow along.

Au revoir!

The Great Job Hunt of 2016

Dear Internet,

During the great job hunt, a million and a half years ago or 2010, I started a post with,

In the list of ridiculous things that I consider to be dehumanizing, job hunting is one of them. And by ridiculous I mean that I, myself, find this process ridiculous because the level of bullshit and hoop jumping and dehumanizing because I’m beyond irritated that we, the applicants, get judged by missed punctuation and our activities online. But we, in turn, cannot judge our potential employers (well, at least publicly) for the exact same things for the fear of their potential wraith.

Six years on that has definitely not changed.

If you’ve been following this blog in the last week, I ranted on job titles, job descriptions and “other duties as assigned,” and the fallacy of unicorn / blended positions. You’ll see much of my rant mimics what I wrote all those years ago under the auspice category title, “So, You Want To Be A Librarian.”

Almost nothing has changed. Scouts honor.

In 2010, I ranted about the man keeping me down, unable to find a position after library school (114 applications!), and the ridiculousness of applying for these jobs (the awful HR software — holy cats!).

Then I got a job. That contract ended. I started writing a book, the book stalled, and well, here I am.

It’s 2016 and the job application process is almost eerily the same. I’ve applied for 120+ library positions, the HR software still remains cagey as hell, I have had scores of interviews but no job offers. I’ve dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s, I’ve done just about anything anyone has asked me to and yet…

Yet…

Nothing.

Those offering their (oft not asked for) opinion tout out the same reasoning why I’m not getting positions now as I was then such as: my language on social media, what I’m willing to discuss on social media / my blog, what I am / am not doing to make me more desirable. I don’t have enough experience/skills, I have too much experience/skills.

I believed enough in #teamharpy and I did not back down.

In 2010 I understood the high probability I was not getting positions, despite being the golden child of my graduating class, was likely a combination of everything and not just a single thing. Tie in coming out of a recession, the job requirements were in the process of shifting, and everything was possible. Nothing was improbable.

In 2016, much of this has has not changed. It seems to still be a sellers, not a buyers, market. I still have friends, as qualified as myself, who can’t find positions. Many have moved on to non-library positions in corporate or non-profit ventures.

The truths as I am being googled relentlessly and the case still figures prominently in the search results no matter how you spin it. As I wrote more eloquently the other day, “… prospective employees love the resume, letters of interest, my portfolio, and everything I stand for, but not me due to the case.

Is it the case that’s holding me back? I think so: I’ve had job offers rescinded more than once after the the school googled me and got the details. Do I think it’s also has to do with what I’ve been writing, tweeting, Facebooking, etc online? I genuinely have no idea but I’ll hazard some places might see that as a liability.

(One person told me these places have a “right” to google their possible future employees. Sure. Are they are also googling their current employees? Because I can tell you with certainty I have and not everyone is coming up roses.)

So where does that leave me? Applying for jobs, writing the rocking letters of interest, work on adding more skills to add to my growing cadre of existing skills.

I just won’t give up. I love what I do and that is something you can’t take away from me.

As that stands I have to work two times, no a million times, harder to prove my worth. Is this blackballing, because let’s be honest that is what it is, ever going to end? Yes. When? No idea.

But it will at some point.

It has to.

Librarian How To: Preparing for Department Accreditation

Dear Internet,

We’re gonna shift a bit from existential crises and go into work details. One topic I have yet to see covered in my trolling of academic librarian Internet is putting together support for academic departments when they are in accreditation years. Since I completed such a thing and recently took a survey that was pushed out to an academic mailing list on this very topic, this proved to be an opportune time to get something written up.

In my current position, I am a liaison to many departments on campus, which align with my education background and interests. One of those departments is the Visual Arts department along with certain sections of Fashion and Interiors (Interiors) and Computer Information Systems (web design) are accredited by National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). What does accreditation mean? NASAD explains:

…is a process by which an institution or disciplinary unit within an institution periodically evaluates its work and seeks an independent judgment by peers that it achieves substantially its own educational objectives and meets the established standards of the body from which it seeks accreditation.

To clarify: in addition to making sure that the department and programs associated with that department are academically on par for what they are being promoted as, it also makes it whole lot easier for students transferring from one accredited school to another.

What the hell does this have to do with the library? As the often main support unit for these departments, the main function of the library is to illustrate and provide documentation, usually in written form, of that support.

For MPOW’s 2014 accreditation process, my documented support came in at a 15 pages. Your mileage may vary.

Now  I will tell you that as someone whose academic life has mainly been in the humanities, I am the effing champ at writing tight copy in cases like this, so I knocked the writing out fairly quickly. However, I was foolish enough to not prepare this long before I should have and blindly/naively believed previous years documentation was going to be readily available. Let us be surprise that it wasn’t, so in the end it was the gathering of data that dragged on rather than the writing itself. This guide is geared to those who will find themselves in similar situations and need help.

Before You Begin
This guide is being written having been the basis for the NASAD accreditation. If you’re not writing for NASAD, you will need to check with your department to find out the accrediting body and what they require for support. NASAD had very specific formats and formulas for their documentation, so the onus is on you to make sure you get the right guide and format for your documentation.

Budgeting Time
I am going to assume you have already spoken with your department head that is under accreditation to find out due dates. You may also need to have regular meetings to go over details. In my example, I received a packet from the department support in mid-November 2013. I met with the department chair within a week and was told the final due date for submission from me was January 31, 2014. I gave myself a soft deadline of January 15. I turned in the documentation on January 29, 2014 and had zero revisions.

You should budget roughly 40 hours between research, meeting, and writing the support. It will vary from department to department and school to school, depending on how hands on/off the department is and what has already been done. Some departments schedule a year for data collection and writing, mine was only a few months.

Another note: In addition to the library’s support, the Visual Arts department also has a private library available only for VARTS students and faculty. This may vary from institution to institution. Thus, many of the collection and monies spent was separated by what the college library (me) spent and cataloged in addition to what the VARTS department bought and cataloged.

Data You Are Collecting
For the NASAD, I was not only collecting data on entire Visual Arts department, but also sections of Computer Information Systems and Fashion and Interiors. Now our set-up does not allow for splitting out titles from Fashion and Interiors that are only for Interiors, so I had to lump those together unless I wanted to count by hand, which was not going to happen. Now going forward I could manually track specifically what I was buying for that side of the department, but when running stats, it would not be possible.

  • Total volumes This refers to print and ebook, which I was able to separate out by department and then gave the combined totals
    • This also includes a subject inventory, broken down by call number (print) and LC subject (eBook) and the number of holdings for each section
  • Total periodicals This refers to print, electronic, and microfiche, again separated out by department and then a combined total
    • I broke this down by access type (print, online, microfiche, or some combination) and access years
  • Audio/Visual This was not required by NASAD but I provided it anyway, with just the combined total
    • Similar to the volumes set up, broken down by call number (physical copy) or LC subject (streaming) and the number of holdings for each section
  • Streaming Audio/Video Again, not required by NASAD but I provided it anyway with combined total
  • Slides Required by NASAD, but the library does not have them, the VARTS library does
  • Databases Listing of subject specific and general databases, with direct links to our holdings
  • Other libraries available This was an in-depth list of all local libraries, special history, archives, museums, and consortia our students and faculty could freely visit. So this list included titles, URLs, and a brief description of each. In my list I included local library systems, colleges, public museums and the like. Since this list more than likely won’t change much, this is easy to pull and update.
  • Budgets You’ll need to pull reports on money spent for each department (in my case there are three) individually for designated years and the projected budget for the current year. You will also need to note current fiscal year budget for the library as a whole and money allocated to staff, maintenance, and other areas as dictated by the accreditation agency.
  • Volumes per year In addition to how much you spend per year, you’ll need total number of volumes bought per year per each department you’re supporting for the accreditation.
  • Number of staff assigned/liaisoned to the department and their credentials In this section, you’ll add your name, titles, and your education/expertise as well as any other persons from the library who act as support to collecting, budgeting, etc.
  • Policies and procedures for collections, preservation, and replacement of materials Pretty self-explanatory. Here you will give a brief overview of your library’s collection policies, preservation of the collection, and how materials are replaced plus any other related materials

NASAD wanted a listing of ALL volumes owned by the library to support documentation. I wrote something along the lines of, “with nearly 13,000 volumes, it would be unrealistic to produce a listing due to the sheer mass of material.” I did, however, break down the volumes section by call number and the number of holdings for it for print titles and combined the LC subjects associated with each major section (Visual Arts, Interiors, Web Design).

Now that’s the general jist.

And yet there is more! Of course there is! NASAD also wanted:

  • Governance/overall requirements/facilities Example would be: size of the facility, how many computers are available for students to use in the entire library, is there WIFI available, printer/copiers, what software is available on the machines, any special software (Adobe Creative Works, CAD, etc) available specifically for VARTS students, what is available on each floor in terms of collection, and the breadth of the library’s collection as a whole. So essentially all of the library’s services and what/when/how/why.
  • Administration of the collection What parts of the collection are available at the library proper versus what is being kept at the VARTS library
  • Needs of student/faculty How can students/faculty get materials on/off campus, type of access that is available, how can they make suggestions for new materials, and so forth
  • Services How long the library is open each week in total hours, how the library’s resources are divided between print and electronic (ex: X books are in print, X books are online, we have X number of databases) and so forth. How the library operates its communication channels of new materials, and here I mentioned the library’s use of social media and listed our social media accounts with links.
  • Value of the collection By this it is meant, how can the campus community get access to and find materials? I wrote about keyword searching, using LC subject headings, using Dewey Decimal System, and Subject Guides. I broke down how each worked and for the Subject Guides, included all of the tabs we streamline across the guides themselves and links to each department’s own Subject Guide.

Problems
Here is a list of things I came across that put a hitch in my giddy up:

  • Support from the last accreditation in 2003 and the follow-up in 2007 was sparse. I was given a binder of printed off emails which was essentially chatter going back and forth between people in the various departments but not a lot of substance. I found one document from 2007 for follow-up support but there was no full report written from 2003 available electronically or only pieces of it in print. I had to start from scratch. Solution: I saved everything from my go round in clearly labeled text documents in a centralized location on the library’s intranet and backed up copies to a cloud service. This also includes the finalized document I turned in to NASAD.
  • We changed how we track funding for various departments at least twice between 2003 and 2013. We now use fund codes for each department to track spending but before, not so much. Solution: I, with the help of our cataloger, created complex search routines in the ILS to find items purchased between specific dates for various call numbers and/or LC subject headings to get what I needed. This also solved the problem with getting the totals of what was spent from each department. Going forward, I will be running yearly searches to have materials easily on hand.
  • Electronic books do not include call numbers but only LC Subject Headings, which slowed down searching for items. Solution: Again, using search routines in the ILS, created often dozen plus long lines of search queries to get list of items. Saved list of items can be re-used in the future to update on the fly.
  • The departments were without a liaison for a few years, collection development and maintenance was erratic. Solution: Noted this in the support, but since I came on in 2011, I’ve been furiously buying to support all of my departments, replacing what is damaged, and keeping in touch with my faculty to make sure their needs are met.
  • Support documents available from the past reviews was filled with flowery language and supercilious commentary. Solution: Cut that shit out. Literally. This is not a creative writing contest, you do not need to describe your collecting process done with “great and overly joyed enthusiasm.” Be direct and to the point.

With all of that being said and done, here a process I would recommend you should be doing to keep this up to date so you’re not scrambling when the time comes to write-up the support. It should be noted again that you should have the found and formatted the accrediting body’s requirements into a working document.

  • Most of the above can easily be collected at any time because the values are not going to change. You are more than likely not going to lose computers or you are not going to suddenly lose a whole floor. So even if it is not your accreditation year, you can start gathering the easy stuff first and writing it up so it will be on hand when you’re ready to rock.
  • Harass your faculty as often as you feel comfortable with on requests for new materials as your buying materials. Example: one of my photography professors recently sent me a list of over a 100 photography books he wanted. I was able to order over 50% of those (the rest were out of print or unavailable or yet to be published). Stress they can make suggestions for ANYTHING: books, ebooks, film, journals, databases, etc. Many of my faculty are often surprised at what how in-depth we’ll get for their needs
  • Keep your faculty abreast of what is coming in by sending them monthly reports of materials that have arrived so they know and can tell their students. Use social media/Subject Guides to advertise the new materials
  • Run yearly reports of each department of funds spent and items received so you have them easily available for the yearly breakdown
  • Find ways to streamline your searching in the ILS. Would appending call numbers to electronic materials helped? Hell yes. Creating search with dozens of lines to match the LC subject headings took forever and could have been made a lot easier.
  • Weed often. Weed with care, but weed often. I have titles about the Internet going back to 1994 but I could not pull from the print stacks because I did not know if my totals were going to be high enough. NASAD required for a BA level school to have 10,000 volumes combined, and we’re an AA level school with 13,000 volumes combined so I would have been beyond okay. But with lack of liaison for several years before I came along and how the job has changed, there has been no real time to weed. Now I make time so next time this comes around, the collection is fresh and currency is high.
  • Take copious notes on everything; make those notes available at a shared and central location. We have a shared accreditation folder since several librarians are liaisons to accrediting departments and the NASAD folder was sparse. I created a child folder specifically for FY 2014 and dropped everything from NASAD’s notes on prep to pulled lists to the finalized document.

One last thing. NASAD had two sections required to be filled out that were both damn near repetitive in the questions. The idea, apparently, is the first section would be a brief intro while the second separate section would be the in-depth, so you may end up repeating yourself. NASAD does prefer you reference other sections if need be, so keep that in mind.

And seriously, one last thing. Keep in touch with your department head spearheading this for any questions you may have while you’re writing. Get clarification to your answers before committing and make sure to also follow-up with them after the report is submitted.

Now go forth and get accredited!

The Fine Art of Creating An Online Professional Presence

excellentthing
I am big in Canada!

Dear Internet,

Before I begin, I need to note some changes that have been going on. First big change is that I migrated all the blog posts over from my professional site to this site. I was not updating the blog portion of my professional presence in a meaningful time frame AND I talk a lot about professional stuff over here so combining the two became a natural progression. I have put the posts relating to the professional stuff on its own page, which is automatically updated as new content is published. I also have a widget in the right navigation bar for easy access.

The second change is that I reorganized the professional site to be more transparent on what my goals and career plans are, and took away the features that were geared for current MPOW by putting them on its own portfolio page.

Lastly, while I was working on this, I found out from my favorite John that at the recent Ontario Library Association, I was a THING OF EXCELLENCE (see photo at beginning of this piece) on online portfolios. I found the accompanying wrap-up of the presentation, which has a lot of good info.

That’s it for the news.

This all ties into when I started writing this post on developing a profesh librarian site last year, geared to illustrate my own experiences and giving examples of others. MPOW originally required faculty, of which includes librarians, to have a Faculty Performance Evaluation portfolio (formerly known as the FGIP) in place and on paper. My work is nearly all in the digital world, so thus my portfolio was digital. In the fall of 2013, MPOW moved over to an in-house digital product to manage and did away with paper and also making my site obsolete.

I came to the conclusion this was a good time to make my profesh site more robust and provide all the things! I changed the layout and theme a few times until I got something close to what I liked and started filling in more content, primarily stuff from before I started working at the college and more details about professional projects I was currently working on.

Yet, I felt like no matter how much I tweaked, I was still not satisfied with how the site was turning out. I came up with the brilliant idea that I needed to see what other people were doing, so I headed to Google and searched:

librarian -“ask a librarian” -“annoyed librarian”1

Time frame searched: Within the last twelve months

Criteria: Professional-esque site, with something that resembled a resume/CV, with a list of projects/presentations/papers or something resembling professional development. It was fine if they had a blog, were linking to other sites they frequented, or provided content that was more relevant to personal than professional.

I rejected sites linking to LinkedIn for resume/CV information since that required a LinkedIn account, which I don’t have and will not get. I rejected sites about librarianship that were portal or aggregation sites. I rejected book review sites.  I rejected the use of the word “librarian” in the title or URL by people who were not librarians.

I rejected a lot of content.

I combed through 56 pages of Google results.

I found very little. Maybe two sites, possibly three that fit my criteria.

I sulked about this for awhile because how was this even possible? There were a gazillion librarians, no one has a professional site? I knew creating digital portfolios was the rage at most library and iSchools, so why were these not coming up? Why weren’t people I knew who had professional sites coming up? My search was pretty broad and I did not discriminate against any type of librarianship.

Someone suggested I should look at the websites of people I know, which was a fine idea! I went through all 500+ people I follow on Twitter and added their names to my now growing list. Several people made recommendations. Of the roughly 50 people listed below, less than a handful are ones I do not know.

Margaret Heller
Becky Yoose
Jodie Schneider
Bohyun Kim
Christiane Evaskis
Chealsye Bowley
Mita Williams
Rob Dumas
Amanda Goodman
Emma Cragg
Annie Pho
Phil Bradley
Frank Skornia
Loida Garcia-Febo
Dennis Nangle
Heidi Steiner Burkhardt
Val Forrestal
Andrew Shuping
Tiffani Travis
Sara Mooney
Ned Potter
Cynthia Ng
John Pappas
Ann Clark
Andromeda Yelton
Dorothea Salo
Matthew Reidsma
Sarah Houghton
Nicholas Schiller
Coral Sheldon-Hess
Mackenzie K. Brooks
Leah White
John Jackson
Jenny Levine
Erin Dorney
Stan Bogdanov
Kate Kosturski
Marie Elia
Lynda Kellam
Emily Clasper
Jessamyn West
Andy Burkhardt
Cathy Cranston
Anne-Marie Deitering
Ian Clark
Jacob Berg
Emily Drabinski
Lauren Bradley
Michelle Kraft
nina de jesus
Ruby Lavallee
K.G. Schneider
Ruth Collings
Ginger Williams

Here is what the sites above have in common:

  • Clearly identifies who the person is
  • Provides a resume/CV or some kind of professional biography about the person
  • Presents publications / papers / talks of works either completed and/or in progress
  • Contact information is clearly made available in some form (email or social network)

It is now a nearly a year later and I repeated the same Google search. I combed through nearly 14 pages of links and found that only FOUR of the names listed in the table above showed up, as opposed to two in 2013. I found another 11 people who matched my criteria but were not in the above for a grand total of 15 people out of hundreds of hits as opposed to three in 2013.

In my search, I learned:

  • A large number of librarians really love using about.me and tumblr.com for their portals
  • Librarians of all flavors really love doing book review blogs
  • Almost all were “something” librarian (sneezy librarian, scratchy librarian, and so forth)
  • Librarians really love using “uncategorized” as their default category taxonomy on their blogs (WHY??)
  • Despite doing a global search, I had a hard time finding English language non-American librarian sites
  • With the exception of the four in my list, none of the librarians listed above came up in my search despite almost all of them having “librarian” somewhere in the title of their site, URL, or on their landing page
  • Despite using the word “librarian” on my landing page and using good SEO, I did not come up in the searches performed in 2013 and 2014
  • Search performed in April 2013 came up with 56 pages of results. Same search and Google settings in February 2014 came up with 14 pages of results.

This outcome really surprised me. I went searching for other sites to get ideas for design and content, and now I’m thinking about the fallacy of Google and search in general.  Primarily with Google, their new algorithm now leads news and products pushed to the top over sites with content.

But what this discrepancy says to me more is how we’re valued as a whole. We can’t project who we are, the diversity in jobs AND the people in the profession, if the term “librarian” is continually used to have such fluid meaning. My favorite John responded,

it’s both a desire for that authenticity and an implicit belief that the work librarians do is not very hard.

And he’s right. This is what frustrates me that we tell people who are going into the field to go search for librarians online but if a librarian themselves can’t find those like her, how on earth are we to expect the young bloods coming up in the field to connect and outreach to those they want to be mentored by? How are we able to connect and collaborate if we cannot find each other?

We keep going on about marketing to outside our profession, but exactly how are we doing that? If you’re not utilizing social networking and are relying your website as your main presence, then how are people finding you if even the most basic searches reveal nothing? Are we really putting together sites that make it easier for others to find us or are still projecting the cool kids club attitude by unintentionally putting barriers around ourselves?

P.S. I did find and fall in love with the Oh, So You’re A Librarian tumblr while doing this search as their gif curation is exquisite.


1. This search means, “Google. Please find me all sites that have the word “librarian” in them but does NOT contain “ask a librarian” (a common phrase used on library websites to direct users to ways they can ask a librarian) or “annoyed librarian” (the anonymous writer for a column in Library Journal).

So, You Want to Become a Librarian/Archivist: 2012 edition

Dear Internet,

In 2008 or so, I started writing columns on “So, You Want to Become a Librarian/Archivist”, which ended up becoming pretty popular. With as many domain shuffles I’ve had in the last four years, the content is archived but has not been put back on this current domain as of yet.

A few days ago, my friend Kate said, “Hey! There is a thread on Ravelry about wanting to become a librarian. I think you should chime in.” And I agreed. Below is my original post with some slight editing. Once I stop getting lazy, I’ll put up the older posts, but the below pretty much is succintly how I feel today.

Please, please, please use this to pass around to anyone who is thinking of becoming a librarian, please add in your own comments about your experiences with library school, education, job hunt, anything. I don’t know where the misconceptions are coming from, but if watching #libchat is any indication, a lot of n00bs out there still can’t shake the myths. I no longer care WHY the myths exist, I just want to break them.

—-

First, if you can’t find what you’re looking for via Google or any search engines, then you’re going to be a terrible librarian. Here is my point: I searched for “online library science programs accredited” in Google and the VERY FIRST item is a link to ALA (American Library Association – our professions largest professional organization) listing of accredited schools, which includes online programs. I know of four you can do entirely online:

There is probably others that do entirely online degrees, but those are the big ones. The number of library schools in the US is tiny (like 50?), so it averages one per state. Most, if not all schools, offer a blended degree of online/in classroom.

There ARE schools that offer library science or library tech degrees in bachelors or as certification programs. These are not the same thing as getting a MLIS. I want to make this clear because this is commonly misunderstood.

So WHY do you want to be a librarian? You only say, I think I would be good at this. But you don’t really clarify WHY you think you would be good at this. Here is a major site aggregator for library jobs that is compiled by ALA. Even if you see the same job title twice, you will hardly see the same job responsibilities, duties, or description. If you think the job is going to be standing around all day handling and reading books: Let me burst that bubble for you right quick. I barely have time to keep up with my professional reading, let alone personal reading. I was more cultured in topics and titles when I slung books at a bookstore then working in a library system.

At this point, you’re probably wondering: Who the hell is this person?

  • I’m a systems and web librarian at a community college
  • I have a GED, BA, MA, and now my MLIS
  • I graduated from Wayne State in 2010 with my MLIS and archival certification
  • I’m not going to be overly humble here: I was the golden child of my class. I worked through school at the campus library as a reference librarian, I was on many professional committees on and off campus, I started a new organization ON campus, I was active within the community, and I had a 3.85 GPA. It took a year and 114 job applications before I landed a job. I applied for EVERYTHING and EVERYWHERE.

(Also, I would highly advise you NOT to go to Wayne for your online program. This is the worst run school ever, the director is douchebag delight who is out of touch with the needs of the students — we tried to get him removed as head when I was there.  His main residence is in the southern states. Yes, he’s a director of a program in MI, but lives in the south. The programs are poorly coordinated and run. Stay the fuck away from Wayne.)

Let’s move on to your education: A lot of people say that having a degree in history, or English, or similar is extremely helpful in having a MLIS. This is true and this is bullshit. It’s bullshit because EVERYTHING you do outside of library school will be extremely beneficial to your career path. Those customer service skills you learned in retail? You will be a prince(ss) among the people for deft handling of difficult patrons. You’re interest in comics and gaming? You will soon be scheduling programming and events for teens and adults when new releases come out. Worked in housekeeping or similar detail while going to school? You will be the MASTER of unclogging toilets. There will not be one skill you have not acquired in your personal or previous professional life that you will not call upon at some point in your library career.

Also, having a degree in the humanities such as English or History does not give you a leg up in getting a MLIS or working in a library. It is relevant if you want to specialize but if you are going to work somewhere and a specialization is not required, your degree in underwater basket weaving is just as useful as the one in physics. I am also going to strongly suggest you get, if you do not already have, heavy tech skills. I worked in the IT industry for nearly a decade before going back to finish my undergrad and then on my two masters degrees and having my background in IT  has been a boon to my job search and interviews

Next is job descriptions. My title is “systems and web librarian.” What does this mean? At my institution, it means that I am responsible for:

  • Maintaining our online catalog system (OPAC) in all capacities
  • I manage, update, create content for our library’s website and all social media accounts
  • I am a liaison to six departments on campus so I keep up to trends and info on all those fields
  • I do collection development for my departments
  • I teach information literacy classes 85 hours a semester
  • I am on the reference desk 10-15 hours a week
  • I am on numerous committees on campus
  • I participate heavily with the state wide library organization
  • I am the liaison to the institutions IT department and I work with them on many tech projects

Now I have a colleague who works at a local college here who does nothing but web development for the library. It was required he had his MLIS. Not that he does 1/6th of what I do, but that his job is 1/6 of what I do. Some librarians on this list may recognize that what I’ve listed is similar to their own lists of what is expected of them.

So the job market. Yes, it’s brutal. But so is it everywhere, it is NOT just in library world. I’ll reference my point above of 114 job applications and year before I landed my gig, but I want to stress I did NOT apply for positions only at libraries, I applied for any and all positions that I was qualified for in librarianship or as an archivist regardless of the sector. Just because you have an MLIS and/or you’re a certified archivist doesn’t mean you have to work at a library or at an archives. This seems to be a popular misconception that all n00b librarians/archivist seem to think is true. For example, Blizzard Entertainment is looking for an Associate Librarian & Archivist. I have many friends who have never set foot, professionally, in what is considered to be traditional librarian/archivist jobs. Other options are: Knowledge management, information architecture, UX designer, content producer, and about two dozen other fields you can go in with a MLIS.

So let’s talk cash. Yes, librarians are underpaid, I will not disagree with this. But the amount of cash you make is solely relevant to the type of job and where you live. I have friends in Chicago who work in public libraries who think $45K starting out is terrible, WHEREAS in Michigan (anywhere in the state really), that’s hooker and blow money right thar. I’ve applied for jobs, many with the same titles/qualifications/etc that ranged as divergent as $30-100K. It’s crazy with the lack of consistency, but I get super frustrated when people do not take cost of living and high cost areas into faction here. Another friend of mine, who is looking to move into becoming a director at a small college, found a gig in Maine that paid $32K. For a director’s job.

If you think librarianship is where the big rollers are, you are sorely mistaken. You can wage your MLIS into a field that pays you big money, but as a whole, librarians do NOT work for the benefits of fame and fortune.

We’ve talked school choice, getting an education, kind of jobs you can get, and your potential big bank.
Let’s talk about paying for this education.

I had $100K in student loan debt when I came out of my MLIS. (Had because it’s now down to $69K.) That money funded most of my BA and both of my masters. Knowing me, I knew that I needed to not work 40 hours a week while going to school because it would not work for me. I had tried that before many times and always ended up dropping out of classes (this is part of the reason it took me so long before heading back to finish my undergrad. I have transcripts in at least 6 colleges before I sucked it up and knew I had to put school as a priority). I knew that coming out of this, I was going to be heavily in debt and I was totally okay with that. Could I have made better choices with the funds? Sure. I could have done a lot more to save/grants/scholarships. But I do not regret getting my degrees. Not all people are like me. I have a friend who is doing her MLIS degree two classes at a time. I have another friend who did the program in 18 months (traditionally, it takes 2 years). Some are paying for it by themselves and others are getting loans. You need to do what’s best FOR YOU. Everyone’s experiences and expectations are different. There are a lot of options to finance/save/pay for classes. Research them. I was also lucky to land a job that pays me enough for hookers and blow, so I’m fast tracking my student loan payments and the entire debt will be paid off in 10 years.

Lastly, let’s talk about job titles. The field of thought is to be called a librarian is to have a MLIS. But, a lot of rural/small libraries are getting away with volunteers and/or long term employees who call themselves “librarians” (withOUT a MLIS) because they worked at that particular location for 900 years so they are the best choice. I do get that train of thought, I do. But it’s like calling ones self a doctor after reading WebMD. There is a lot more to the word “librarian” then just working in a library and I wish more people would see that.

Which brings me up to my last point: If you decide to go this route and you want to do this for a living, be prepared to defend what you do ALL THE TIME. Example: When I saw my orthopedic surgeon for the first time earlier this year, and he asked me what I did and I told him I was a librarian, he said, “I thought libraries are dead? Everything is on Google.” Uh, what? My retort was, “Do you stop using stairs because elevators come into existence? Do you no longer have an accountant because TurboTax exists?” He got my point real quick. People are often careless and dumb, but when it comes to the life of libraries, they are downright stupid.

This has been a production of “Lisa’s Quick Guide to Becoming a Librarian” in 10 easy steps. No warranties implied or assumed. Money back not guaranteed. Act now as this is a limited time offer.

So, why do you want to be a librarian again?

-Lisa

P.S. Every other Wednesday or so, there is a great chat on Twitter called #libchat, that starts at 8PM Eastern. You may want to check that out and consequently, you can find me on Twitter as @pnkrcklibrarian if you have any questions. Lastly, you can also email me if you have questions about Wayne, library school, or why the sky is blue!

P.P. S. Another niblet about Wayne:  I landed a job on campus as a reference librarian in one of their libraries in my second semester, which I worked at until I graduated 18 months later. As I was doing a dual degree of sorts (librarian AND archivist), I also won a scholarship that same semester. My final semester, I had a bill for the same amount of the scholarship. When I contacted the school’s office, I found out they revoked my scholarship 18 months later, because they felt it was “unfair” as I had the job on campus. The job paid me, but did not give me any tuition breaks. If my partner (now husband) at the time did not have a good job, I’d be up shit’s creek without a damn paddle.

It’s all about the hair.

I never thought I’d write a post about my beauty process1, however, a large number of my Twitter girlfriends and I haven taken to having unplanned and very random discussions lately on everything from being anxious to our periods to whatever else our vaginas demand we talk about on the twitters. As the conversations are often spontaneous2, and it typically starts out with one writing a blog post, another commenting on said blog, then more entering the fray with their thoughts and the threads go on for ages. Thus, when Carolyn recently wrote about that she doesn’t use shampoo, I commented that at some point I should write about the fact that I wash my hair once a week. Several of them said I needed to do such a post because it would be very important, natch, to note that not all of us are created equal, hair wise.3 Since I’m a writer with consistant writer’s block, if writing about my girly acts gets me back to writing on a more regular basis, who am I to argue?
When I say “I wash my hair once a week,” I mean specifically that: I wet and lather my hair once a week. I do not wet or wash it during the course of the week, with the odd exceptions here or there, but usually I have to set aside time for THE WASHING not so much that I have so much hair but that it can be a fairly long process. When I first met my friend Jessica, this past January we were attending the same workshops together in California, and one night we were planning on doing something or another and I mentioned that I had to get back to our hotel early to wash my hair. She looked at me like I was crazy, as it does sound so damned ’50s. Though, to be fair, I have been toying with the idea of setting my hair in juice cans for curls that won’t quit but that is neither here nor there.
Continue reading “It’s all about the hair.”

So, You Want To Be A Librarian/Archivist: A Portrait of the Librarian as a Young(ish) Woman #libday7

When I applied to library school several years ago, it was not because I specifically wanted to work in a library or that I had dreamt of becoming a librarian since I was a wee lass, or that I had to work with books in some capacity and becoming a librarian would fulfill that and other bookish desires.

In truth, I applied to library school because a lot of jobs I wanted to apply to when I was finishing my first masters were requiring a MLIS or equivalent and they were not in the traditional library setting. I saw obtaining my MLIS as a means to an end, not to fulfill long held craving.

Now, if you talk to my mother, she will tell you a different story. She will weave you a tale of my interest in libraries and books stems back to when I was knee high to a grasshopper, when during the summers I would pack my lunch, hop on my bike and ride to our local library, get my books for the day(s) and spend most of my time reading/writing on the banks of St. Clair River before coming back home in the early evening.

She will probably then go on how when I was footless and floundering about in my 20s that she knew I needed to go to library school and begged me to go because it was my destiny. During these stories, she will interject that my love affair with reading is generational and ordained and if my brother is there, he will pipe in that my world has always been in ink and vellum, never of this current plane.

In the ways of Rashomon, all of these stories are true. Reading and books, were (and on some levels, still are) these ultra sacred spaces for me and me alone. I’ve built up a pretty turret with my fine cavalcade of books and who are you to traspass, uninvited, onto my sacred space? I was deathly afraid that I might lose my passion for books and reading if I were to make a living from it in some capacity.

This seems to be the opposite advice of what most will tell you when they start sprouting those pithy, borrowed unoriginal commentary of “DO WHAT YOU LOVE!” when it comes to job advice. I didn’t necessarily want to share my passion with the world, when along with my Ted E. Bear, had been my sole companion and comforter since I was young. 1 On some levels, these are lines of bullshit. I did toy with going to library school several times during my undergrad and during my first masters, but it was not at the top of my list of future career prospects.

I did not find, as I may have previously suggested, that working in a bookstore for four years to diminish my love of books and reading. It, in fact, enhanced it significantly, more specifically when my employee discount was applicable to bargin and used books. Connecting people with new authors, new ways of doing things was terribly exciting. I loved doing Reader’s Advisory on the book floor because I often got an education myself from my customers, which in turn allowed me to enhance the stores fiction collection with titles that were previously not stocked. I met a lot of amazing people. I was able to create programming that was geared for our community and those programs were well attended. And lastly, working in a bookstore (sans all the bullshit body politic) was fun and on a lot of levels, I miss it greatly. So when people come to me and ask me about whether or not they should attend library school, I get this awkward feeling inside. Who am I to dispense myths and wonder when my own myriad of job career paths was hardly the place for attribution. I love the idea of library school as a figurehead but the actual going to and ultimately obtaining the MLIS degree?

It’s a joke and here’s why:

  • As academia moves slow, so too does library school with their course structures – therefore many of what is being offered is either no longer relevant or is losing relevancy to the real world; education is fast tracked on the job or in addition to it
    Almost every librarian I have talked to on this subject over the years has said that most of their education was done on the job or in relation to their job in some capacity, and was not necessarily obtained in the library school environment. Several had said privately to me that their own degrees were, on the education received, worthless. These same individuals also conferred that they only reason why they had attended, and eventually graduated from, their institutions was because having MLIS after their name gave them better recognition professionally and a pay boost to do essentially the same job they were doing before.This is of course not to say that this affects ALL programs, but it is to say that there is much to be said for the splitting of library programs from the traditional to iSchools. In my experience where iSchools tend to concentrate more on theory and research, traditional library schools are still lagging in the days of card catalogs, paper indices and manual typewriters. There does not seem to be a program, that I have found at a least, that offers a blend of the cutting edge with relevant theory and practical application.My alma mater attempted this blend, as they needed to stay relevant to compete with a huge iSchool located on the same side of the state. But wehre as the iSchool might teach human interaction and computational behaviors in relation to user searching behaviors, we got classes that taught Silverlight and using Microsoft Office. On several mailing lists I’m on, a recent conversation took place on Lita-L within the last year, there is loads of posts on this topic as more and more hiring managers and directors were getting frustrated with the lack of quality students being churned out – namely because what libraries seek (across the board) for new employees is NOT being produced by these programs. This does not mean that students, new graduates and the currently employed should not be doing professional development – far from it, but it DOES mean that library schools needs to start taking responsibility for what they are producing in terms of graduates, concentrate more on quality over quantity and putting together comprehensive programs that blend theory with relevant course applications that can be applied to the real world.
  • Chances are the professors who are teaching you the ways of the library have probably never worked in a library themselves 
    Now I will freely admit this may be something that is more of a Lisa-quirk rather then a legitimate complaint, but I don’t really think so. When I started looking for mentors within my program, with my particular interest in technologies, the advisor I was assigned to was absolutely nice guy. Very lovely man – but his interest and expertise was specifically with Microsoft Development software. He had never worked in a library, had no (to my knowledge) interest in working in a library but yet he was teaching at a library school. Hired, I would assume, for his technical expertise in a specific subject rather than that expertise as applied to libraries. Nice man, very lovely but had no clue about what libraries were dealing with in terms of technology needs or requirements.2


1. This also applies to writing, in some capacity. It is not that I do not handle rejection well, but, that perhaps I get defeated far too easily.
2. He was the reason, I believe, behind why Silverlight was being taught in the web development classes geared for libraries.

So, You Want To Be A Librarian/Archivist: Plan

The first thing I’m going to do is warn you that this post is going to be fairly lengthy. I’ve been attempting to outline it in my head for nearly a week now but it is going to be a brain dump; this is not going to be as organized or methodological as the prior pieces in the series.

Second thing I’m going to tell you is that this is going to be probably fairly raw and really personal. Last thing I want to point is that I’m not bitter or cynical.

Really.

I’m just incredibly frustrated.

Based upon my vast academic experiences since obtaining my GED in 1991, I’ve known what works and what doesn’t in order for me to succeed in the academic arena. I knew, for example, when I was attending GRCC in the early ’90s that my heavy involvement on campus with the college newspaper, attempting to start a campus radio station, and other things I threw myself into were great for professional and personal networking but not so great for my academic standing.1

When I went back to finish my undergrad in 2003, I did a 180 by eschewing campus involvement to concentrate on grades. This proved to be successful as I was able to raise my overall GPA from 1.7 to a graduating GPA of a 3.3, but the downfall of that move was that I missed the action of being involved on campus and I hardly knew anyone upon graduation. You cannot reach the age of 36 without knowing a thing or two about yourself.

Thus I knew based upon said stated prior experience that the best way for me to succeed in library school was to do a combination of campus involvement AND concentrate on my grades. I also knew from research and people networking that librarians were incredibly, heavily involved with their profession. In order to succeed after lib school, I’d have to get my little tush involved in everything and anything related to the profession while still maintaining the grades. Not a problem. My resume is a good indicator of how involved I was on campus during my two years at Wayne State and my grades? Overall GPA is a 3.89. Not only was I involved with various associations on campus2, but I was also presenting at professional conferences while still in school and working with senior librarians on a variety of projects. Coupled with my library experience, finding a job should have been a snap.

In the fall of 2009, TheHusband and I sat down and figured out our plans. We knew coupled with my rock star3 status on campus, experience, and the fact we could relocate4 anywhere in the lower 48, we assumed I was a very attractive candidate for positions when I would begin to apply for jobs in spring of 2010. I vainly assumed, “Who wouldn’t want me?” Since May of 2010, I’ve submitted 100+ job applications/resumes and had dozens of interviews: not a single job offer. In that interim, I’ve been given scads of advice from the pithy, “Chin up, it’ll get better” to “It’s not you it’s them” with the reverse, “It’s not them, it’s you” also thrown in anytime I start getting depressed about the job market.

In the rejection department, I’ve been rejected for my writing style in my cover letter to my resume had too much information on it(!) to I was too overly ambitious to I presented myself in a negative light5 on the social media sites I was active on and so forth. I’ve received conflicting advice from librarians AND hiring managers AND HR people in a variety of fields of librarianship. Every time I shucked for one company/institution, my jiving (apparently) irritated another. I wrote about the reality of the situation back in August and now that it is mid-November, everything I mentioned before? Nothing has changed and the market is only getting worse.

In the fall of 2009, TheHusband and I sat down and figured out our plan of attack. We decided (then) that if I did not obtain a position by mid-August 2010, we’d move to Chicago and settle there. We reasoned if we were living in Chicagoland area, I would have greater access to jobs/opportunities than staying in Detroit. This plan was modified by mid-summer of 2010 when it became clear that it would take longer than a few months to obtain a job due to slowness of institutions/etc responding to applications and coupled with the piling rejections. We also realized that living in Chicago was awesome if we both had jobs, but with my almost crippling student loans AND a mortgage, we’d be eating ramen every night.

A new amendment was interred to our plan which then stated after 100 job applications submitted, if no job offer, relocate to a city and start nesting. This would, obviously, limit my opportunities significantly but really? I’m awesome, who wouldn’t want to hire me before then? Right? I hit the 100 mark at the beginning of October. TheHusband and I have both gained at least 15 lbs each since the job hunt started. We have competitions like who can go the longest without bathing to who can wear their pajamas the longest. In the last several months, when it became clearer that I was not going to be working in a big girl job anytime soon, we talked a lot about my options. What the hell can I do to make a living AND contribute to society AND utilize the skills that I have just earned? It became abundantly clear to me that if someone was not going to offer me a job, I was going to have to to create one.

If you’ve been following me via Twitter for the last few months, I’ve been vaguely mentioning this on and off. I’ve got numerous projects that I have seeds planted for that are creating opportunities for myself in this profession but none are outright paying gigs (yet). To build this up, it’s going to take time, coupled with a few consulting gigs here and there, I’ll make something. But here’s a comparison: this year I will make slight more than I did at the age of 14, making $3.35/hr while working at Sbarro’s at the local mall.6 People have read SYWTBALA and have asked, “What’s next? I’ve done everything and then some and I still don’t have a job.” to “Why aren’t you writing more SYWTBALA?” Because I don’t have an answer AND to write SYWTBALA sends me into a crying jag every single time. How can I advise YOU when I myself do not have a job? But I’ll do it anyway:

  • Create a back-up plan. Then create another one. And then one more. And then another. Several positions that were 90% guaranteed for me fell through before graduation. I don’t blame anyone, it’s just the way it worked out.
  • Pay off all your debt. Even if it means creating a budget and it sucks because you have to give up weekly beer. One of the smartest things TheHusband and I did in the course of my lib schooling was to pay off all extraneous debt (except for student loans).
  • Be fucking flexible.
  • Create another back-up plan.
  • Save money. Yes, it sucks and means giving up more beer or a CD or whatever, but create a savings account.
  • Continue to be active in the profession and if this means attending local meetings, virtual meetings, collaborating with colleagues on projects, whatever. Keep your skills fresh. Just because you do not work in a library does not mean you’re not a librarian.
  • Make decisions for your long term goals, not just your short term goals. I had to turn down an interview recently because the institution wanted me to pay out of my own pocket to fly there AND were not willing to do a phone interview before hand. This was too risky for us to consider financially AND the timing was bad since it was almost certain we would not hear back before our lease was up.

Here is our plan of attack:

  • Our lease runs up on December 31, 2010. Therefore, jobs I have interviewed for have until that date to make up their mind on whether or not to hire me.
  • We have decided, based on location, housing inventory and cost, that if no job materializes between now and then, we’re moving back to Grand Rapids and buying a house.
  • I have been applying to positions in the GRR area and will continue to do so upon arrival. I will also volunteer at local libraries to keep my skills fresh.
  • I will use GRR as my home base since I will be doing a bit of traveling across the state for my library related projects. I’m also looking into consulting gigs and other opportunities I can do from home/virtually.

I will be the most connected, hard-working, project wrangling but unemployed librarianista EVAH. Now if you will excuse me, I have a cake to go bake.


1. I never graduated from GRCC, but I was president/founder/editor of a lot of things. My grades? Yeah – my overall GPA was a 1.7, but what did my 22 year old self care? I got to go to gigs, meet bands, and hang out with celebs! 2. A few of us also founded a campus student chapter of the PLG, which turned out to be the most successful student org on campus for the 2009-10 academic year.
3. I ran into a few of my mentors at a recent (last week) conference for the state library association and was told by a senior librarian I was the sure thing, the “golden child against the recession”, in getting a job. I was extremely touched by her comment but um, yeah.
4. TheHusband telecommutes for his position, which is super awesome.
5. It was suggested that since some of my commentary was risque or that I swore a lot, I was getting rejected from positions. Based upon the responses I’ve heard from HR people, the sheer number of applicants is at LEAST 200:1, that’s a lot of g-d googling for each and every candidate.
6. $3.35/hr was the minimum wage in 1986, when I was 14.