Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Statement for TLA VIce President/President-Elect Election

So, I'm running for Vice President/President-Elect of the Tennessee Library Association.Here's my shortish statement for the ballot.


First, I would like you to visualize what you imagine is the perfect library. Walk through the space, interact with the staff, and picture all of the available resources and services.

Thank you, and welcome back!

I asked you to visualize your perfect library because I’m sure no two people imagined the exact same place in their short daydream. That is the quandary of being a librarian—trying to create a place that can be everything that all of our patrons, customers, students, faculty, and staff want in a library.

Please take another moment and visualize your perfect library association—don’t worry this is the last time I’ll ask you to do this. Imagine all of the training opportunities for bettering yourself professionally; the statewide network of awesome, knowledgeable people you can tap into; and the incredible ideas you can bring back to your own library.

Thank you for indulging me once more.

I’m sure that each of you pictured a slightly different version of TLA. The Tennessee Library Association—through training opportunities, advocacy, and planning for the future of Tennessee’s libraries—helps us all get closer to developing the perfect library we imagined a few moments ago. This is why our professional organization is so important.
To ensure that TLA can follow through with assisting you in creating your perfect library, as President I would focus on:

  1. Growing membership through an initiative of inclusiveness to bring those who currently feel there is no place for them into the association
  2. Stabilizing the funding of the association by targeting spending more strategically and by fostering the work of the Development Committee
  3. Opening up new avenues of communication about TLA both within and outside the association

Please vote for me to serve as TLA Vice President/President-elect so that, together, we can make Tennessee’s libraries as close to perfect as possible.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Librarians: Connect and Collect/Curate

Late last week I was going through old files where I'd made a few notes several years ago. I came across the item below. This is the most basic way I could represent librarianship in a single image:

I just kind of dropped it on Twitter with the comment that maybe there could be a better word to use than "collect." I remember going back and forth between "collect" and "organize" since the general public understands both of those words. The problem is that, to me, organize--while commonly associated with librarians--doesn't convey the level of purpose in what a librarian does as quite like the word collect. Organizing can be as simple as color-matching, but collecting is a purposeful decision to select and remove items from a grouping.

I received two good ideas from the library twitterverse. Several people mentioned changing collect to "curate" and another person suggested even adding a third leg with the word "care for." Here are those images.

I do like the word curate in this instance better than collect, because there is a greater purpose to a curated group of items than a collection of items. I must say, though, that while I like the simplicity of Connect-Collect/Curate there is always something appealing about things in threes. The addition of "Care for" tells the viewer that librarians aren't simply warehouses for books, which is always a good thing to remind people.

I also made a slightly improved version of Connect-Collect:

What you think? Do you have other words to use in place of collect, curate, care for, or even connect?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Laughter: more than the best workplace medicine

We all know the old saying that laughter is the best medicine. Laughter, though, is often seen as a distraction in the workplace. Certainly, there is a time and place for everything, but there should always be laughter. What is one big part of most of your fondest memories--laughter! Laughing floods our brains with endorphins, lifts your mood, lowers your blood pressure, and lowers stress. What boss doesn't want a happier, more focused, healthier worker? Humor and its usually accompanied laughter bring people together in a shared experience, brings people together at an emotional level, and can be the crowbar that opens up stressful situations.

Humor is a great way to break down barriers between people without them even know it is happening. When people get together and laugh they're sharing an experience. A group of people laughing is not only reacting, but everyone becomes an active participant in the event. Recall the times you've laughed just because someone else thought a joke was funny. How many times have you been laughing to the point of rolling on the floor simply because you can't stop laughing? How many of us have watched a movie alone and thought it was OK, but later when we watched the same thing with a someone who thought it was funny we immediately found humor too? Their laughter was infectious, and you shared an experience with that person you were not able to have alone. It is nearly impossible to work with people when you can't find any common ground.

Making someone laugh means you share something personal. When you can make someone laugh it shows that you get them as a person; it shows you know them on another level. Bringing someone to laughter is, in my opinion, as good as giving someone a hug when they're down. Hugging everyone in the library, though, is usually frowned upon, so why not make everyone laugh? 

Lightening the mood might be the best use of humor in the work environment. There's nothing to give us all a momentary break from the general stress of work than a lighthearted comment or joke. I don't mean we all need to be that guy no one can take seriously because all he does is joke and play practical jokes. What I mean is we need to be the guy who understands that jokes and the occasional office practical joke are good for everyone else, so they're good for us. I never mean that anyone needs to be bullying anyone else in the workplace, making inappropriate jokes, or harming anyone else in any way. I've found that the office that laughs together is the team that works together.

People like nothing more than feeling loved, being appreciated, and making other people laugh. Is there any workplace that would not be improved with a little of the best medicine possible? I suppose I, myself, have been harping on humor and laughter so much recently because of the medicinal effects--I have a prescription I promise.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

What Does the Leader Say?

Dog goes woof
Cat goes meow
Bird goes tweet
and mouse goes squeek

What the leader say?

We, not I
You're important
I'm listening
I'll make time for you
My door is open
I'll stand up for you
We'll get you what you need
Your work is valued
Your time is important

Whatever a leader says I certainly hope it isn't Hatee-hatee-hatee-ho!

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Library

Librarians are smart cookies. Most smart people I've known have been pretty funny too. So, why are so many librarians not funny? I don't just mean that their sense of humor is different or odd, I mean just plain not funny? Is there something about library work that does not appeal to the smart and funny? I think yes, absolutely, of course, sure bet, and hell yes!

Libraries have difficulty trying new things, changing anything, and generally coming up with creative solutions to problems. I know this is a pretty broad statement, but judging from the number of tweets, posts, papers, and conference sessions on this topic I think I'll stand by it. I know that there are many very funny librarians, and that there are just as many libraries where change and creativity are welcome. The problem is that the combination of factors that bring smart, funny people to a profession often aren't welcome in the library world. This means that the people we get are people who already want to do the work. Therefore the funny one's are those who want to do the work and also happen to be funny.

Yes, I can hear you all saying, "But is it a bad thing to only attract people who want to do the work when there are already too many people out there getting their MLS?" My answer is yes. Being unfunny is just as much an ingrained part of library culture as preserving the cultural heritage for the posterity of human kind, which is not really knee-slapping stuff. One big problem that libraries run into is that the world is changing and we need creative solutions, but we've already been passed over as profession by so many creative people or due to our typical librarian/patron interactions creative people don't see libraries as a viable place to spend their working life. 

Perhaps I need to step back a little and say you're right, that the problem with libraries may not be that there isn't enough humor. The issue is, most likely, that there is too much anti-humor. Yes, there are people who don't want humor associated in any way, shape, or form with libraries and the work we do. We've all seen these people on Facebook or Twitter chastising others for using funny pictures, jokes, or other modes of humorous expression in a professional setting. I've even heard about a conference committee member who would not approve any session with a pun, joke, or anything not 100% serious in the title of the program. I constantly hear comments and see tweets like the one below from librarian Jason Vance about his article "Staplercide!" in C&RL News, which is about his project The Lives and Deaths of Academic Library Staplers.

Puke! Someone was so outraged by a librarian not taking everything 100% seriously that they wanted to puke. Have you ever found something so unprofessional it made you want to puke? I've seen things and thought maybe, "That's a bad idea." or, "Wow, I wouldn't do that." but I've never felt the urge to upchuck on my Converse.

So, in the end, this turns into another post about how libraries need to be more open. In this case, though, I think we need a very specific kind of openness. Creative people need an open environment to be able to explore, experiment, and thrive. Humor is one place where libraries are not very open, so it could be a good place to start. I understand that we're not going to change the entire culture of libraries with a few jokes. Maybe, though, if we begin to let a little laughter through the cracks in the doors to the staff only area of the library we'll bring in a few more of the people libraries need for the future. Perhaps, then, those folks will tell their friends who are smart and creative-types about the awesome libraries they work in and the amazing librarians they work with. Overall libraries need to be more open and funny--our lives could depend on it.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Failure Continuum

The words fail or failure are being used with greater frequency. I suspect that we can blame popular humor sites like Fail Blog and Cake Wrecks that put on display all sorts of mishaps and human error. I've even noticed casual use of Fail in reference to any kind of common mistake or malady by someone saying simply "FAIL", although they're more than likely commenting online. I find it interesting because I don't see one mistake, accident, strip-up, misstep, or whatever you want to call it as being a failure. I suspect that this is something that is unique to me, but I think there is what I'll call a "continuum of failure."

I have a little saying I tell my kids when they're trying to do something they repeatedly attempt but aren't quite successful at. The little saying is: You've only failed if you don't learn from your mistakes. In other words it isn't failure unless you continue trying to do the same thing, but never learn anything or give up. This is what I've always told myself to keep motivated as kind of a "fool me once, shame on me..." saying.

I decided to write a little bit about this today after reading a post from  BeerBrarian by Jacob Berg (): On Failure: “Elizabethtown: Embedded Librarianship as Overreach.” I really enjoy reading not only because of the beer, libraries, and DC connections, but also because he's honest, approachable, and introspective. It would take another post about failure to address the rest of today's post, so I'll leave that for later.

The post today includes a quote from the movie "Elizabethtown":

"As somebody once said: There's a difference between a failure and a fiasco. A failure is simply the nonpresence of success. Any fool can accomplish failure. But a feeassscoe, a fiasco is a disaster of mythic proportions. A fiasco is a folk tale told to others that makes other people feel more alive because. It. Didn't. Happen. To. Them." - Orlando Bloom, Elizabethtown
I'm drawn to the quote because of the continuation of the idea of failure, from a single screw up to a "disaster of mythic proportions." This lead me to take my basic notion of a mistake not learned equals failure to imagine a sort of flow chart, or continuum, of failure. We begin with a mistake, that is not learned from, which becomes a failed act. This act combines with other failure to become Orlando Bloom's fiasco. I find this a fascinating idea because so often massive failure like the site can't be traced back to one mistake, but rather a whole series of mistakes repeated over and over. These mistakes snowball from simple mistakes to failures and, in the end, fiasco.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Every library article needs at least one cat reference

“Straight to the Heart of Things”—Reflecting on Library Metaphors for Impact and Assessment

I stumbled across the Journal of Creative Library Practice a few months ago. Every time I return to this irregular publication I'm always amazed at the accessibility and the slightly different viewpoint. Anyway, I quite liked this piece I finally read this afternoon, so I think you should go read it too.

My primary response is that metaphors are a good tool to use to get past using library jargon or academic speak. I believe that is one aspect of what Mr. Stoddart was trying to get across in relation to various groups different context in regards to the importance of the library based upon their various uses and demands upon the library. It reminded me quite a bit of one nearly universal result of LibQUAL+ surveys: that undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and staff all have very different desires for what they need to the library to be for them, which in turn effects the way they perceive the level of services the library is providing.