Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Greetings, Hallowe'en

Well Dressed Librarian's 1940's Halloween GreetingHappy Hallowe'en gentle readers. I am sure that all of you are terribly excited about going to work today and finding out which of your co-workers has decided to step away from the dress code, and into something more costume-y. I for one shy away from this type of office behavior.

Admittedly, I tend to shy away from a lot of office behaviors. For instance: holiday sweaters. They aren't necessarily bad things that I'm shying away from, just things that make me feel terribly uncomfortable, self conscious, and anything less than perfectly attired.

I'm sure most people think that I am dressing up out of my Great Uncle Luke's closet every day anyway.

In honor of Halloween, I've decided to wear a 2 piece black pinstripe suit with a pumpkin-spice color shirt, finished with a black silk tie, and a silver, onyx and diamond tie bar.

Tonight, I have to work late - which means I'll miss all the trick or treaters that come knocking on my door in this bone chilling weather that we are having up here. Though the WDL is always prepared. I have a large, red German ceramic bowl filled with candy - for my "spouse" (how PC) to give away to all the little ones. If they come - which I'm sure they will now that I am living in St. Mary Mead.

And dear G-d, if one person throws an egg at my house, I will personally hunt them down and scare them to death by not raising my voice while I berate them.

Last, I think Hallowe'en should be left to the children...much like the tooth fairy, Santa, and the Bermuda Triangle. As adults, we have lots of things to look forward to, like our mortgage, dentist visits, and raking our lawns.

Be on the look out today. You will be working with witches, devils, Star Trek characters, and maybe even a dried up mummy or two. Though, some may deal with this everyday anyway.

Oh the joys of the holiday season. And there is so much more to come.

Moral of this blog: I hated when I got bags of pennies, and popcorn in plastic bags when I was a kid.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Cheques, Pay

You can have fun at work and get paid for it.

Today, one of the most rewarding moments of my career occurred.

We were working on a librarian project, and a co-worker said "I can't believe I'm getting paid to do this!"

To which I replied "THAT'S THE POINT!" And for the afternoon, I felt content. More than content. I was on the same page as everyone in my office. It was so rewarding. This is what our jobs are about people. Wake up!

If you don't like what you are doing, ITS TIME TO GO.

If it's not fun anymore, ITS TIME TO GO.

If you are only in it for the pay cheque, ITS TIME TO GO.

You may wonder, what in the world were we doing? Some of the team members didn't know what avatars were. SOOO we learned, and each designed one, with the intent that we may use them with a reference-chat interface. It really was fun - and this is what our jobs are about. Discovery through exploration!

Moral of this blog: Be passionate, or be somewhere else.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sedaris, Amy

I Like YouI would be seriously remiss in not suggesting that you buy this book for every hostess in your life.

This book is amusing and funny, and filled with lot of recipes that can be used for parties. It is also lavishly illustrated with photographs and sketches.

Ms. Sedaris admits that she included many pictures, so even the illiterates can enjoy it.

Sections on Entertaining blue-hairs (in large print), entertaining children (give a wrapped cabbage to a two year old, they have no idea what you gave them anyway), a section on what to cook for & how to treat people who are grieving (suggestions include never saying "It was bound to happen sooner or later"), and how to and how not to introduce people at a party (This is Tammy. She can't have children.)

The dust jacket is actually a center fold poster of Amy herself, all covered in sprinkles.

Moral of this blog: I highly recommend this book. Not intended for young audiences.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Technology, Fear of

I'm sooo scared!Technophobia. Astonishingly, this is not just a syndrome faced by millions of Amish (are there millions of Amish?) It exists right in our own back yard.

Stephen Abram calls people born into technology "natives" - I sit on the fringe of that. I dial my cell phone with both thumbs - I cradle it in my fingers, while dialing with thumbs. Apparently, this is characteristic of the natives, while non-natives poke at the numbers with one finger. I say I sit on the fringe because I didn't use e-mail until 1996 - and even then not regularly until 1998. Gen Y, and the millenials have never known anything else. Technology doesn't scare me, because I can't experience life to the level I desire without it.

Some people seem to be plenty happy with electricity. It turns on the typewriters, the lights come up - and it is not as flammable as those old gas fixtures. While I exaggerate for effect, this is the feeling I am left with sometimes.

This is not a PSA for "TECHNOLOGY IS FUN!", because sometimes it isn't. I have no desire to learn Access, I've already learned Excel...and I need to polish up my Photoshop skills, however my job is dependent on that. Did you read that last part? My job is dependent on that. And while it doesn't make it fun, it does mean that I can pay my mortgage at the end of each month.

I've been told that it is hard to learn technology that you are not familiar with. I've received written replies on printed out e-mails, and received the same in inter-office envelopes. Guess what? YOU CAN REPLY VIA E-MAIL, JUST BY PRESSING REPLY!! And it's quicker. And saves paper. And my time. Valuable time I can spend learning Photoshop and Access.

So, do you make do and let your coworkers carry the line? OR do you ask questions? Continuing education courses? Read a book (oh the horror!)

It is our job as librarians to stay at least 2 steps infront of our savviest user. We set the bar for information giving. Library Assistants learn from the librarians how to give service. We teach computer literacy classes. How can we do this effectively if we ourselves are not staying ahead of the game?

The fact that technology changes so rapidly is scary. There is not a single question about that. You learn a program, and its already time to begin learning the .1 of that software. You figure out how to use a e-book reader, and they are defunct. New search commands, new databases, different wild cards, blood thirsty robots - OK, there are none of those, but I just wanted to see if you were still reading. It can be a challenge.

My point is this: when the teacher stops learning, how can they teach? Instruction is a big part of our job.

If you take a back seat to this, and let the rest of the team lead the charge, you are not doing yourself a favor, you are hurting yourself and holding back the team. After all, the cliche adage about the chain being as strong as its weakest link is totally true.

Rather than be scared, or hesitant - dive in. We learn from our mistakes. Best of all, no one can be injured when learning keyboard shortcuts, or editing images. Unless you are practicing on the roof ledge of your library, and it is very very windy. And if you haven't got the money for continuing education, use the MS Wizard. Or the Idiots or Dummies guides.

Challenge yourself. Learn something new, or at the very least, keep up with the Jones'.

Moral of this blog: No killer robots were harmed during the composition of this blog.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Shadows, Me and my

Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men?Ahhh, the burgeoning librarian. Still in school, with aspirations to achieve the lofty heights of librarianship. I have been fortunate over the last five weeks to have been shadowed no less than 4 times.

Apparently, it is "that time of year" when the Professors give out their assignments, and one of them is to shadow a Real Librarian™. For four hours at a time, the Real Librarian™ educates, elucidates, and shows off the glamorous world of reference. Some have been afraid, others fascinated by what this job entails. Be forewarned, oh dear Shadow, this is not for the faint of heart.

Most all of the shadows seemed to know what being a librarian meant to them. One was still forming that opinion.

I seemed to gravitate towards the shadows that really lived up to their name: they stuck behind me when I went to the shelves, stood over my shoulder while going to e-reference databases, and took notes and recorded my "results" to the customer. The customers seemed to feel their energy as well, coming up to the desk and asking them for help... good. Half the battle - presence as a librarian, or information giver. I hesitate to say "look the part", because there is no look to being a librarian - although I do encourage regimented hygiene, well pressed clothing, and a subtle yet pleasing perfume or cologne.

One gal pretty much hid in a corner, seemed horrified that we had to deal with the public, took notes from a far, and seemed panicked that she would have to use reference material - in any form.

Oddly, during these shadows we didn't need to fill out an assessment for their professors. I'm glad for that. A four hour shadow doesn't really seem to mean anything unless you really dig in and get your hands dirty.

Some pointers to shadows:

  • Bring a notebook & pencil: and use them. They are not decorations.
  • Make eye contact with the librarian(s) you are dealing with.
  • Ask questions! This is your chance!
  • Dress the part. PLEASE don't show up in sweatpants and sneakers. On the same token, this is not a night club. Please do not show up looking like a hooker. Unless you are one, and are making a career transition. But plan to take the night off from your "day job".
  • Bathe. Do something with your hair.
  • Confused? Say so.
  • We have to work. This is not 4 hours of play time for the librarian you are shadowing. We can't sit and shoot the breeze.
  • Note what services the library offers. Take free literature from the shelves. This may inspire you to write a paper, or be fodder for a paper you don't know you have to write yet.
  • Be on time.
  • Give yourself enough time before you come to try out the catalog, the databases, and walk around the building. Once you are shadowing the librarian - you are literally a shadow. You'll have to follow that person around. I don't leave my assigned floor when I am working.
  • Do not call and say I would like to shadow someone today, say around 6 pm? Ask when you can come in.
  • DO NOT BRING YOUR KIDS. This is like work. Only you are not getting paid.
  • DO NOT BRING YOUR BOY(GIRL)FRIEND OR HUSBAND/WIFE and have them sit at a table watching you the whole time. This is called spousal abuse. And it's just weird.
  • DO NOT ASK FOR A BREAK. You are only there for 4 hours. Feel free to excuse yourself to the powder for a few minutes if need be. I don't want to have to search for you. You are my shadow. This is not a game of hide and seek.
  • Take good notes. You only get to do this once - plus you can ask questions to supplement what you are writing down. No notes = you don't think I do anything.
  • PLEASE don't act surprised when we get up and leave the reference desk. We do that. A lot. (if your librarian doesn't get up at all, you've had a bad person to shadow - I stand by that)
  • PLEASE don't act surprised that your librarian is a male. Not all of us are women.
  • Share a little about what you'd like to do. Perhaps we can tailor the evening towards that - or show you things you might like to know.
  • If you have special needs, let us know before you show up. Like a seeing eye dog, a translator, or a crate so you can see over the reference desk. No one likes surprises. OK, some people do. I don't and this is my blog.
  • Don't come on to the librarian you are shadowing. That is not professional, and it is weird. Don't come on to the customers either. or cleaning people.
  • Don't keep saying "I love books, your job must be sooooo fun", because we do more than work with books.
  • Don't compare us to a "better library". You should have called them for your shadow.
  • Send a thank-you note the next day. I haven't received one yet. tsk tsk.
  • Put your coat and purse and keys and cellphone in a locker, or on one of the librarian's desks in the back. Please don't carry them around with you. No one is going to steal your things.
  • Don't ask if you can make a couple of quick phone calls, or check your e-mail 5 or 6 times. Or glance at your beeper every few minutes. We will think you are a drug dealer.
  • Don't show up drunk or under the influence of drugs. That is just good form.
  • No one wants to see pictures of your kids. Put them away.
  • Please don't ask for legal or medical advice.
  • Don't ask if you can "burn a cd real quick".
  • Use librarian etiquette. If a customer smells, don't scrunch your nose up, or say "what is that smell?" while fanning your nose in an animated fashion with your hand. Do like the rest of us, and wait til they walk away, and go in the back and complain to various coworkers.
  • Don't say things like "now what?" or "what's next" when we have two calm minutes. It won't be that way for long.
  • Allergic to anything? Make sure you have on your med-alert bracelet. Nobody wants to plunge an EpiPen® into your thigh only to find out you have an intolerance for epinephrine.
  • Are you making "the change"? Shave and wear good foundation for the duration of your shadow. Don't become the "5 o'clock shadow" shadow. Plus, that would be weird.
  • Do you have halitosis? Bring some Altoids and use them.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Shadowing can be fun for everyone involved, if it's done right.

Moral of this blog: Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men.... The Shadow knows! (ok, so none of mine did... but whatever)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Apples, Picking

Apple Picking Librarians are hotSome of you might wonder what a librarian who has become More Northern™ does on the weekend.

I found myself apple picking. Found isn't quite the right word. Prepared is a better word. You see gentle reader, the Well Dressed Librarian tries to live a genteel life. Please don't confuse that with a gentile life. At any rate, being More Northern™ does give one the opportunity to enjoy nature in cultured ways: picking apples, riding horses, and sipping warm, slightly alcoholic beverages in front of a fireplace.

One of the first things to note when apple picking is what to wear. A Well Dressed Librarian does not wear a winter jacket and big wooly mittens. Layer yourself. In the reference photo I've provided you with, you can observe a black wool flat cap, 2 button tweed jacket, scarf, and vest. What you can't see is the cardigan under that, and the argyle sweater with tartan plaid tie under that.

Dark, fitted jeans with thermals. Classic black and tan Steve Madden sneakers, and of course, black leather gloves. The sunglasses keep you from being recognized by adoring fans.

As you can see here, I had removed a glove to inspect a Northern Spy apple. Always a librarian, looking for the smallest details. You can also note here that I look slightly annoyed that a cold breeze had blown on my ears.

Alas, the Well Dressed Librarian has large ears. A fault I hope others find endearing. Perhaps they have adapted themselves from listening so much. I may never know.

Also note, that a stray twig had landed on the shoulder of my grey tweed jacket. Obviously, I worked very hard to pick the apples that I picked.

After a long day of worrying that I'd worn the wrong thing apple picking - thinking perhaps I should have been a bit more wooly than tweedy - I attended a cocktail party moments after I arrived back. I wore my apple picking clothes to the cocktail party.

Toute la Rage!!

Moral of this blog: An apple a day does not keep the librarian away

Monday, October 09, 2006

Leg, Showing some

Not quite like this though
The naughty librarian? Where in the world did this image come from? The library is probably the last thing people would put in their list of "sexy things." If people even have lists like that. Which I kind of hope they don't. Library's just don't sell themselves - no one is showing any leg.

One of the things I do now, probably much to the delight of Stephen Abram, is PR for my library. Libraries all across the country are completely undersold.

I am fortunate that I live in a community with about 658 small newspapers (note exageration for effect). There are several TV stations, and about twice as many local radio stations. All untapped resources.

How many public libraries (excluding the big, sexy top 10 HAPLR report libraries) indulge in PR? Do you think putting a sign up at your local beauty parlor catches your target market? Perhaps it actually does. Let's just say I'm glad I'm not a librarian in that town.

Don't cry because you haven't got a budget. As long as you have a computer with Microsoft Office Suite, and a telephone, you are your own PR firm.

Finding out who your local contacts are is actually pretty easy. What news stations do YOU watch? What local papers do you read? What radio station do you listen to on the way to work? (Tech librarians who listen to satellite radio need not answer.) The yellow pages is also a valuable resource. Then pick up the phone and call them.

Two of my TV stations actually have a "community page" on the internet that you can add events to. One hot links you to the community calendar persons e-mail address. Just point and click. The information goes right out there!

The newspaper is more tricky. Lots of people write for the paper. Do you have a local events reporter? Or local interest reporter? Add them to your address book. They will publish things for you, and so far, its all been free for me.

Posters, bookmarks, and other promotional items can be created and made to look quite professional in Microsoft Publisher. Just use a consistent look, and similar language. POOF! Instant flavor associated with your own local public library.

Word documents, PDF's and Publisher files can all be mailed to newspapers and monthly paper offices. I've only found two so far that prefer fax. Sending e-mail is quick and easy, and your organization saves money on postage. That adds up after a year!

Radio stations are the most fun. You can hear your local announcer read your news release on the way to work. Make sure to use the library's name a few times, incase they don't catch the web address, or phone number.

PR is a great way to get more people to show up for programs and events. More people means more door count, perhaps more circulation.

We all know those kind of numbers look amazing when trying to justify more spending in the coming years - especially in this age of cut backs.

Try some PR at your library. Start small, but think big.

Moral of this blog: Just talking about the library isn't going to get you anywhere.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sorts, Out of

a hog?That's me. The pig on the right. I've never actually said that. I saw this photo and my mind flooded. It makes me laugh, and that, my dears, is the most important part.

Now that I am More Northern™ I kinda sorta noticed I'm not quite like all the others. And this makes me sad. I'm not saying that I'd like to be surrounded by an entire cast of gay,jewish, male librarians.

OK, maybe just one.

Here's the real deal. If you are a GenX librarian, in your first big boy job- you really need to read Rachel Singer Gordon's The NextGen Librarian's Survival Guide.

As a new librarian, I want to prove that I can play ball with the other librarians. To who? The other librarians who may have forgotten they were new librarians once too. Yeah. Those are the ones that I want to like me. Reaallly like me. I feel like the new kid in school. Only I didn't wear cuff links when I was a kid. Honestly, I didn't. Loafers, yes. Khaki's, yes. Cuff links, no.

I feel like apologizing for not being part of the organization for 30 years. But I haven't been, and I can't. I've worked in libraries for half my life. That has to count for something. But nope.

Sometimes I wonder if they cry in the car on their way home listening to NPR. And not because the news is sooo sad. I don't need to wonder, because I know they don't. I wonder how people would react if I spoke to them like they speak to me. Maybe they don't even think it is mean. It is. Both of my cats agree with me.

While I want to prove myself, I also listen. Listen, listen, listen. I talk when I have something to say, no doubts there, but mostly I listen. It makes me sad when I hear what I hear. But I continue to listen. And it is most amazing what people will say to new people.

I work diligently. My work is going to have to prove me.

Rachel suggests this is a common malady among new librarians: Wanting to prove yourself while appreciating the history of the organization you work for. Finding your voice. Making changes that are meaningful.

Rachel, I gotta admit, that is a tall order. I read the book twice. I read sections of the book 4 and 5 times. I was hoping that there was some secret access code that I would just have to enter somewhere, and the holy grail of library understanding would be there. But your advice is good, your sentiments are genuine. I am holding on to them for dear life.

So for now, I'm the pig on the right. I'm in the same room, but I'm not one of the gang.

Moral of this blog: Someday, I'll be a beautiful heifer, just like the others.

Bonus Moral: Look what being More Northern™ and rural has done! I make farm analogies!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Humor, Finding

Poor Old DearLife can be trying. Work can really get to you if you let it. I'm not really sure which is more sad - thinking those things, or actually putting them down in print.

So tonight, in Academia Land, while filing and sorting images, I unearthed (no pun intended) some cave paintings. While going through one of my nearly antique, yet trust Multiplex cases, I laughed outloud.

The slide rack to file it under was labeled: "Paleolithic Painting, by Puente Viesgo." It read like all the others "French Painting, by Degas, or American Sculpture by Oldenburg."

Why in the world is this funny? you ask. Or maybe you figured I'd cracked, and thought "That is not funny at all." But it is.

Puente Viesgo is a place. There are caves there, and there are lots and lots of old wall paintings of various and sundry animals.

This brings up the long debated library question: *cue Carly Simon music* Who does it better? Librarians or paraprofessionals? I can't do all the work. I can't be everywhere at once, and yet, it appears to be the curse of this profession: No delegation, No body does it better, I'm not sharing information because it makes me secretly valuable. Mine mine mine.

I waste a lot of time undoing things that were done incorrectly. Retyping letters, making new catalog entries, refiling, and leaving notes asking people to be a bit more careful. Now understand, in Academia Land, my paraprofessionals are students. In Public Library land, well, lets just say its a whole other ball of wax.

I can forgive students. Quite easily. My help may not have anything to do with Art History, or Art, or even know how to spell it. Often the students are from other departments working their way through undergrad. In public library land, well, lets just say its a whole other ball of wax.

The paraprofessional help is often put off by this nomenclature. Who can blame them? It breaks down to "along side, or near professionals" in English. I'm not sure I'd want to be a paralibrarian. I was a paraprofessional for several years before I got my MLIS at a very GenX age. At anyrate, these are the folks that I work with each day.

Today weeding came up. Can a paraprofessional do it? SURE! Should they order the collection too? Err, no. Librarians are viewed as leaders in Public Libraries. That power is often given to them by management or administration, or "higher powers"...and no, I don't mean G-d. Do we belittle ourselves and our worth by delegating to paraprofessionals? Or does the skill of delegation make this OK?

I get nervous in an age where Librarians are being replaced with LA's. Cheaper by the hour, easier to replace, and they never wave around their MLIS saying "but I have a Masters Degree." Which, sadly, is the feeling I've gotten from LA's about librarians.

My question is this: Where is the balance? There are plenty of LA's that I've known, worked with, or heard about who were amazingly competent, versatile, and library savvy. I've also worked with Librarians who are jaded, sloppy, and peevish.

I think the balance is in hiring strong people who work to support one another. A good LA and a good Librarian are hard things to argue about. The opposite: yeah. No one wants to work with them.

I'm still torn about how much responsibility can be given to a paraprofessional because I still worry that I could be replaced.

But then I remember the cave paintings by Puente Viesgo, and I feel much better.

Moral of this blog: its all in the details....or meta-data.....