libraries meet MTV

Jessamyn had a great idea the other day–a show called Pimp Your Library:

Pimp My Library would take some ratty old library with an outdated web site, half-busted computers, no good YA room and terrible signage and trick it out to a level suitable for a modern-day information crossroads. Librarians and other staff would be forced to take the day off under the guide of professional development and would be returned to a sparkling new ergonomic and fashionable workplace with accessible standards-compliant web site. We’d still call the library. It can be done. Maybe we’d need to call the show something else though.

And then tonight’s episode of This American Life had a story about the rock band The High Strung and their summer library tour in Michigan.* (Remember those photos Michael Stephens posted the other day?)

Are you ready to rock?

scheduling and grumbling

I just registered for fall classes at Dominican, or at least I sort of registered. I’m registered for

  • LIS 763 Readers Advisory Services with Roberta Johnson
  • LIS 722 Library Materials for Young Adults with Jeanne Triner

I’m waitlisted for

  • LIS 745 Searching Electronic Databases with Marilyn Lester
  • LIS 748 Collection Management with Karen Brown

Course descriptions are here. I need to end up with three courses, for financial and health insurance reasons. (Oddly enough, I’d also like to take 743, Reference Sources in Business and Economics, but that woud entail dropping one of the other evening classes and driving to Schaumburg. . . anyone want to tell me it’s worth it?)

If this schedule seems a bit schizophrenic, there’s a reason: I’m trying to strike a balance between things that I think would be useful (e.g. Searching Electronic Databases, which I’d just like to know how to do better) and things that I think might be good to have on my transcript (e.g. Library Materials for Young Adults, since I’m considering the whole teen librarianship thing as well as the reference librarian thing).

I wandered over to the LISSA [Library and Information Science Student Association] Blackboard, where a few people have posted requests for information about classes and professors, and one astute reader of the schedule has noted that there are only 5 morning classes (as opposed to 41 evening classes, 8 afternoon classes, and 7 weekend/all day classes) and that two of these are core classes and the other three meet on the same day at the same time. As the writer points out, evening and weekend classes are great for those who work 9-5, but those of us who work evenings and weekends are kind of screwed. I’m lucky in that I only work a few nights a week and that my place of work is understanding and flexible about my schedule. Not everyone, I assume, has that luxury.

Also of note on the LISSA Blackboard is the “LISSA and GSLIS Request and Suggestion Forum”:

LISSA and the GSLIS administration want your suggestions and questions. Please help us make our school better. We can’t do everything you may want, but we would sure like to try, or at least help you make a difference. Students, faculty and administration are welcome to read and post.

Not surprisingly, there are no messages in said forum. LISSA is supposed to be a student forum and an advocate for students: by opening their forums to faculty and administration, they’ve pretty much guaranteed that students aren’t going to feel welcome. It’s often hard to make honest criticisms and suggestions when you know that the people in charge of evaluating you are, or could be, reading.

librarians–we’re everywhere

PopMatters now has a column called “Bad Librarian,” written by a library paraprofessional (a bibliotechnician, in his words, or a librarian in all but respect and pay, in others). Here’s his take on Section 215 of everybody’s favorite act:

Mr. Fed: Gimmee that.
Librarian 1: Sir, this is private information! You’ve no warrant!
Mr. Fed: I said gimmee.
Librarian 1: Okay, here.
Librarian 1 hands over the records and sits down to weep fitfully. Librarian 2 walks over to chat.]
Librarian 2: What was that all about?
Librarian 1 (sniffs): What?
Librarian 2: The guy with the Oakleys.
Librarian 1 (wipes nose): I really can’t say.


jobs et al.

Jessamyn beat me to the news, but I have been meaning for some time to point to a recent post about the library job market (from an Australian perspective) by my friend Morgan over at (For more on the same, you can visit the very first post on this blog [she said, shamelessly]).

As I have noted before, I would have less of a problem believing the ALA job-hype if I didn’t read so much news about libraries losing funding.* It’s a bit hard to believe that the world is awash in jobs for librarians when it is also awash in libraries closing, cutting budgets, hours, staff, etc., etc.

On the other hand, I am not in a state of total despair.Meredith and Dorothea both recently landed jobs, and I can’t tell you how many people I met at ALA who told me encouraging things. I didn’t walk away with job offers, but I did walk away with a clutch of business cards and a handful of opportunities to submit articles to various publications and get involved in sundry organizations–and all from such enthusiastic and interesting people! I’ll tell you, it’s a big change after being in a writing program, a field in which there truly are no jobs.

In the unlikely event that you are waiting with baited breath, I shall mention that I will be finishing up my ALA coverage in the near future. I’ve spent most of the past week recovering lost sleep and organizing various summer reading programs @ my library. In the meantime, if you are desperate to learn more about what happened, check out the coverage at the PLA Blog, the LITA Blog, and the extensive guide to online coverage over at the wiki. (And thanks to whoever put up the links to the posts I’ve made so far!)

*NB questions by Rochelle and comments by Jessamyn on the underfunded libraries map.

the other news about the Court

Before you get too deeply ensconced in worrying about the fate of Roe v. Wade et al. in the wake of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirment, please take a few moments to familiarize yourself with two extremely important decisions handed down by the Supremes this past Monday.

The Grokster case you probably know a bit about already–it’s sort of Napster, Round 2. The Brand X case, however, which deals with whether the Internet is a telecommunications service or an information service (a more crucial distinction than you might think), is potentially even more important. Millions of Americans are able to have telephones because they are a telecommunications service and are considered a near-essential service and are thus regulated to make them more affordable. The Court, in examining Brand X, decided that cable modems were actually an “information service,” which, for reasons beyond my ken, is not considered as important or essential as a telecom service.

For far more informative and enlightening discussion of the effects of the Court’s decisions than I can give you, read on. Thanks to Mitchell Szczepanczyk for research assistance.

ALA day 3

What happened to day 2, you ask? Too much craziness! It is not often that your intrepid (okay, semi-intrepid) correspondent runs out of words, but it does happen. After a rich full day of Nancy Pearl, Siva Vaidhyanathan, gobs of incredibly cool bloggers (see subsequent entries on It’s all good for photos), and Victor Navasky, publisher of The Nation, I made my way back to where I’m staying and collapsed on the sofa, muttering “can’t. . . talk. . . too. . . much. . . stuff. . . .”

I also spent the obligatory afternoon at the exhibits yesterday. They’re kind of frightening, and I have to say, kind of overrated. Imagine a football field or two full of elaborate displays that you know are just going to get taken down in a few days, goggly-eyed librarians walking around, jaws dropped, at the scannning machines (there are machines that will turn the pages of books and scan them, like some kind of weird robot reader), and every other minute someone trying to sell you something. I did get lots of posters for the children’s room at work, many many book catalogs that I probably don’t need, and a copy of A Matter of Opinion with a lovely inscription from Victor Navasky, who happened to be at The Nation booth at the time.

Today’s schedule:
8:30 “Classism in the Stacks” talk by Sandy Berman
11:30 ALA membership meeting II (I didn’t make it to I, but I’m happy to report that the end-the-damn-war now resolution passed–we’ll see if it makes it through ALA Council)
2-4 pm Radical Reference skills share
6-9 pm Free Speech Buffet (at Roosevelt University–all are welcome!)

I’ll post more about Saturday, yesterday, and today, at some point in the near but not immediate future.

ALA day 1: fostering civic engagement, part 1

I did make it to the panel on Fostering Civic Engagement this afternoon, put on by the Fostering Civic Engagement MIG (Member Interest Group–love those acronyms), which was excellent. Basically, it was all about how libraries and librarians can do things to encourage participatory democracy [SDS, of course, did not come up with the idea of participatory democracy, but they’re often given credit for the phrase, and in any case, a little Port Huron is good for you now and then].

Former ALA President Nancy Kranich kicked things off by talking about how different people have defined democracy and how FDR’s definition–that democracy is participation–is her favorite. Libraries, she noted, have an active role to play this kind of democracy: they are sources for information, they are civic spaces, and they are places where citizens can become literate. Rah rah!

Joan Durrance, of the University of Michigan School of Information, then discussed the need to create best practices for fostering civic engagement. “I’m the question lady; I’m not necessarily the answer lady,” she said, as she outlined many of the questions we might need to ask when thinking about these best practices. What are civic engagement information needs? How can/do libraries build community? How do they understand the context of civic engagement and people’s information needs? What differences does library civic engagement make?

Durrance listed some examples of libraries that have tried to answer some of these questions, and then she talked in more detail about the Hartford Public Library and “At the Table-ness.” When researchers interviewed people in the community about the HPL, what they heard over and over again was that the HPL was “at the table.” What did that mean? It means that librarians

  • attend and participate in community activities as part of their library jobs
  • network, network, network with people in the community
  • promote the library as a place for civic discussions

It sounds like the HPL librarians are a little like my grandmother. She’s lived in her town for over 50 years, and she knows–and takes the time to know–everybody. She knows not just the names of the mail carrier and the guy who picks of the recycling; she knows their whole life histories. Whenever she calls a store and speaks to someone on the phone, she asks whom she’s speaking to. She doesn’t get out and about as much as she used to, but when she does, she invariably runs into someone she knows from a political campaign she’s worked on. The result of all this? Well, a couple weeks ago our shower stopped draining properly. It was about 3:30 on a Friday afternoon. My grandmother called the plumber, and at 3:45 someone showed up with a toolbox and a snake, and about an hour later, we had a functioning shower again. That’s kind of what I mean about what being an active community member can get you.

Now, can you imagine a library where they hold weddings, proms, funerals, and the breaking of the fast of Ramadan? Well, the Salt Lake City Public Library is one. Residents think of it as their most trusted and most valued city agency (although snow removal was a clsoe second). Nancy Tressman talked about how they built their new library with the community in mind–and, in fact, quite literarally with the community–set into the library’s foundation are stones engraved with comments submitted by library patrons about the value of the library. “Our answer to how to be ‘at the table’ was to become the table.” For those of us not possessed of the resources to build a new library, though, she noted that becoming the table was something you could try to do even without a snazzy new building. On the whole, it was a very encouraging presentation.

I’ve just looked at the clock, and my time is running short, so I’ll post more about the panel after later. Now it’s off for caffeine and Radical Reference!

ALA day 1: illumination rounds

I’m back in the lobby of the Sheraton, putting my feet up and enjoying the free wi-fi, catching up on some blog reading, and generally basking in the librariany energy all around me.

Everybody and his sister is reporting on “Mining the Long Tail: Libraries, Amazoogle and Infinite Availability,” the OCLC symposium yesterday, which I did not go to as I had to work. Actually, I must admit, I am still a bit unclear about what the Long Tail is, but I am planning to read the original article sometime in the near future. In any case, here are a couple of reports:

After this sojourn, it’s off to find some caffeine and head to the Radical Reference meeting.