Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Jobs, New

  1. Jewish Libraries are hot I am thrilled. After relocating to a major large city, I thought it would be a snap to find a job as a librarian. I must have been mushugana. I beat the pavement for nearly 2 months...day in and day out before the offers started to literally pour in. I am now gainfully employed. And I'm jazzed.

    The hardest part was watching my savings account get smaller and smaller and smaller each week. I was glad I rarely touched my vacation time, as at the end the More Northern™ Library cut me a check for this amount.

    After going on many interviews, I noticed that a lot of public libraries do not feel obligated at all to:

    a) Confirm the receipt of your application
    b) Call to set up an interview - you'll call them to see if they got your application - they may ask in passing then for an interview
    c) Send a letter out to applicants that the post has been filled

    Oh Public Libraries. What a sad impression you left.

    I wouldn't mind - if the organization was huge. But I know for a fact that 3 of the libraries I applied to have less than 100 staff members. I am glad I do not work for these organizations, as they are obviously disorganized and inefficient.

    Why advertise for a job if you have no plans on starting an interview process?

    I must say that all of the Universities I applied to did all of the above. They confirmed receipt of my applications, called to set up interviews, and sent follow up letters when they hired.

    The few private libraries I applied to were a mixed bag. Often, they were a challenge to contact to follow up. I wasn't surprised.

    And now, I have the most amazing new job. It's Jewish. It's a library. It's a museum. It's brand new - and I'm the first librarian. I can't wait to make my mark on the library world with this new job.

    A few tips for librarians looking for work:

a)Have an MLIS, and be able to explain what it is for. Not everyone knows what it is, even if they know they need a librarian.
-some organizations want a librarian, and want to pay them $8.00/hr - they don't realize we need Master's degrees.

b)Dress up. And I don't mean in a holiday sweater with extra jewels. Brush that cat hair off yourself. I wore a bow tie to several interviews. I got competitive offers from each of those organizations. -Even if you will wear jeans to work each day, don't start out by wearing that to the interview. Do yourself up, like you are going to a good dinner with a long lost colleague you'd like to impress.

c)Bring copies of your resume. I don't care if you've faxed it to them, bring at least 3 copies, and your references with you. And make sure your references are alphabetized. You are trying to get a library job.

d)Bring a notebook and pen THAT WORKS. Nothing says "I could give a shit about what you are saying" like just sitting there. Jot down notes, write down names. Jot down the questions they ask you so you don't forget and start to ramble.
-Libraries tend to ask the same questions, this method of writing down the questions will allow you to practice a great response.

e)Write thank you cards to everyone you interviewed with. By hand. Send them out the day after the interview. Make sure they are professional, not cute ones with puppies.

f)Do your research. Be prepared for the "what do you know about our organization?" question. Nothing says "I don't give a shit" like a surprised look and some nonsense reply about "well, you have books."

g) If you have multiple offers, and there is one job you like more than another, share this information with that organization. It increases your stock - if they want you, they better act soon. Be cool about it, don't rub it in.

h) Salary requirements are so awful to talk about. I prepared a letter that noted mine - and give figures like "high forties to low fifties". It is OK to bring up salary and benefits in a call back interview, but NOT in the first interview.

i)When not using your functioning pen and notebook, sit on your hands. This will prevent fidgeting. Sit towards the edge of your chair too.

j) Make eye contact with the interviewers. This can be a challenge if you have several people interviewing you at once.

k) Follow up. If they haven't called you in 7 days, and unless they have said they'd contact you by then, call them back. -Re-express your interest in the position, and ask how their search is progressing.

l)Don't be discouraged when you get a rejection letter - you actually get to write some of your own later!

m)Writing a rejection letter to them: When multiple job offers roll in, you must write letters of rejection to those organizations that made offers, but you decided not to work for. This makes you look professional, and you won't be burning bridges for the future. This letter should thank them for their time, and energy. Let them know it was a tough choice, and that at this time you must decline their offer. Don't send this letter unless you really are ending that chapter.

n)Know what kind of salary your community pays library professionals. There are many sites out there that can help, such as www.salary.com. Some organizations don't know they are underbidding - they often don't know what we do.

o)Network. I found this job through a great site...that had nothing to do with libraries. http://www.linkedin.com/

p)Librarians don't have to work in libraries. I'm living proof. I have worked in a skyscraper for an Ad Firm as a librarian, I've worked in a University Art & Design department as a Slide Curator (yep, and functioned as a librarian), and now I am working in a museum, as a librarian. Think outside the box. We are research specialists...lots of companies need that expertise.

q)Make sure your CV is on good, non-marbled paper. Marbled paper doesn't fax well.

r) Write a good cover letter. This can be tweaked for each job you apply for. Just save it to your jump drive with the name of the organization added to the title.

s) Make looking a full time job if you can. I did. I decided that I didn't want to work at the mall. I got up everyday, showered, shaved, and got dressed like I was going to work. I applied 9-5, Monday through Friday. I took weekends off. Just like the job I hoped to get, AND GOT.

t) Keep a good list of the places you have applied, contact name, and the date. This is two-fold. You'll know when to follow up with an organization - AND when they call you, you won't be all "WHO??" It is embarrassing to confuse organizations.

u) Be prepared to wait. I am now a crossword puzzle expert. I did them during the day to prevent myself from shopping all day long, which would be a huge mistake given my financial situation.

v) Get out of the house at least twice a week to take a walk, talk on the phone, go out to lunch with friends, and read some professional journals/websites/blogs. Keep on your game. It takes your mind off the job hunt, and the idea of being unemployed.

w) I didn't realize how strongly my self identity is wrapped around my job title. I almost didn't know who I was. Luckily, I wore my red enamel "librarian" pin on my sports coat each day - even without a job, I was still the best damn librarian in town.

x) This maybe when you realize the profession isn't for you. Good Luck and Good Night. I don't want to work with people who aren't into the job anymore - and don't keep applying for librarian jobs just because you have a MLIS. It only means something if it means something to you.

y) Get a good haircut.

z) Hang in there. There are hundreds of jobs out there, I know, I applied for all of them. It really is a game - knowing a few tricks can make it easier.

Moral of this blog: Hot job + Hot Librarian = ME

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Posters, Vintage

Librarians Gone Wild

Moral of this blog: I already did.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Librarians, Urban

Super Hot Librarian
Moral of this blog: Urban Librarians are hot.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Labler, Google Image


For the meta data specialist in all of us.

Moral of this blog: Community cataloging is here. Deal with it.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wishes, Thanksgiving

Hot Librarian, again This year is going to be a very different type of Thanksgiving for me. Usually, my goal is to outdo myself with table settings, prepare food for 20+ guests, and spend weeks creating beautiful watercolor place cards for each setting.

This year finds me alone.

And honestly, I'm OK with that. It's different, and a little sad. All my beautiful amber dishes, vintage salt and pepper shakers, and butterscotch bakelite are carefully wrapped and in storage. The tableclothes are all wrapped in acid free tissue, and stowed away in my steamer trunk. They will see the light of day again someday.

This year they will not be needed.

I have the deepest appreciation of this holiday this year. I am thankful for the life that I now have. Me & my 2 cats.

This year, rather than pictures of my finished and eloquent table, I share an image of me - reminding myself that this is what I'm thankful for this year. Peace of mind.

Moral of this Blog: Happy Thanksgiving

Friday, October 26, 2007

Kloeffler, Dan

dan kloeffler makes me all puffy down thereWhy haven't I ever watched the news at 4 am before? As a professional researcher, I am disgusted with myself for not starting my day EACH day with this hot cup of tea. Dan hosts the Early Today show.

Apparently, not sleeping has benefits. I wake up at 4 am without fail. And then, rather than watching an infomercial, or reruns of the quaint Andy Griffith Show - I can fill up on news. Only I have problems paying attention to the news when he smiles. And according to all my digging, not only does he like guys - but because he skis he has a rock hard ass.

That's the kind of news I like to hear.

On other fronts, I am hunting furiously for a job. To me, 1 month feels like years, although it has only been 20 business days. I have sent out more resumes and coverletters than a college senior. On the flip side, I have had time to catch up with The View, Regis & Kelly, and have my daily Ann Curry fix.

It has also given me time to refold all of my clothing into little squares, so that now I can see all of my t-shirts as soon as I open the t-shirt drawer. It works well with socks too, as well as my always stylish underwear.

What? You thought it stopped with the ties, jackets, and cufflinks? And frankly I'm shocked that you never wondered about what kind of underwear I do wear. Or if I wore them at all. Adoring fans wonder those sorts of things, espcially because genetics blessed me with a striking visage.

So, overall, I've been wondering, do libraries not like to hire young, hot people? Is this something that plagues other professions as well? I mean I can't remember the last time I went to the garage to have my oil changed and I didn't see at least one person that I wouldn't mind touching inappropriately. And I know I'm not the only one who thinks that way. Even at the grocery. Hotties in produce and in the bakery. But then I think "yeah, but they work at a grocery store."

Aren't I awful? I guess I require men to be like job environment. Challenging, rewarding, non-dirty (as in cleaned regularly), salaried, and fun. When I think of that, it is a wonder I apply for anything, or that anyone applies for me.

I have also learned that people do really look at you during interviews. Look good. Dress smartly. Have clean fingernails, and polish your shoes. Chanel once said "Dress well for the sake of those of us who have to look at you." I feel that is so true, even though she dated a Nazi during the War. Oh well. Not everyone can be perfect like me.

And I've also realized that I hate being at home this much. My cats adore having me around all the time. I like to be busy. But I can only sort and fold so many things before I start to crack. And with Botox, that is tough.

Moral of this blog: Marry me Dan.

Monday, October 15, 2007

up?, What's

Adoring fans everywhere have been asking where I've gone to.

WDL has had some big changes. These changes include leaving both my public and academic job, moving several hundred miles to a major city, and setting up house alone.

Please be advised there is more in store for the WDL blog. I'm just getting my ducks in a row. I'll be back soon, with lots of points of view on libraries, and point out how I would do it better.

Moral of this blog: Life goes on.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Curtain, Pay No attention to the man behind the

Hot librarian in the backThe WDL is no longer a librarian.

Whats this? you say: It's true.

I am now the Interim Tech. Services Manager.

I have a whole new appreciation for the process that it takes to get a book out on the shelf in a timely fashion.

It's more than just ordering a book from Baker & Taylor. There is a whole team of people working to make this happen - the catalogers, the pages, the processing staff.

I took it upon myself to sit with each of my new staff to "do what they do" for a few days. I've yet to spend a few days with the Interlibrary Loan folks, but I have always worked closely with them.

For the past two days I have been processing books. Taping, gluing, stickering, labeling pieces. Mylar jackets are hell. Processing donations is hell. Children's books with thin spines are hell.

Everything has to be measured, and done with such care. My back felt like it was going to snap from leaning over the desk so much.

It is a totally different work climate. The staff is here to support the old job I used to do - customer service on the front lines. I now know that when I would call downstairs and ask them to quickly process a book - that I was actually asking for a lot more. It might require cataloging, processing, and checking in to change the status - and they did this time and time again for me.

Everyone works independently, but ask questions of each other. It is a true picture of team work - and it is glorious.

Above is a picture of me processing a cart of children's and YA books. I had ink all over my hands from stamping the top edge of the book with an ownership stamp. The room has no windows, and poor climate control - making it both warm and slightly damp. It is quiet, no drone of people, no buzz of children - no radio. The process was rewarding - to see an entire wagon of processed books.

Do I miss answering reference questions? Sure. But the success of knowing that I helped make the process move is great.

Am I waxing romantic? You bet. I encourage everyone to try a new aspect of librarianship- we need to be versatile to survive in this new climate.

Moral of this blog: Cataloging is hot.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Names, Nick

I will punch you if you call me that one more timeOne of the many joys of working with the public is that I get to wear a name tag. My staff ID picture is even pretty good. It doubles as my security pass too. A multi-purpose tool.

Only one part makes me adjust my collar, and is a huge pet peeve of mine.

My name tag clearly reads "MATTHEW".

That's fine, right? However, the cultural custom of our society dictates that we must instantly make a nick name for any name.

Christine becomes Chrissy.
Bradley becomes Brad.
Elizabeth becomes Beth or Liz.
Margery becomes Marge, or Margie, or Gigi

And so follows, Matthew becomes Matt.

A simple phone reference to illustrate this point:

WDL "Good Morning, XXXX Library, Reference desk. Matthew speaking. How may I help you?"
Customer:"Hiya Matt. I'm looking for the number to the local dump."
WDL: "The number you are looking for is 555-555-5555. Does this completely answer your question?"
Customer "Yes Matt. Thanks!"

More than anything this amuses me. If someone calls me Matt, I know they don't know me at all. If I've taken the trouble to introduce myself, I additionally know they don't care a lick about what I just said. No one calls me Matt, spare a few colleagues from High School. After "amuse" wears off, annoyed sets in. That is usually followed by complete and total frustration. If I wanted to be called Matt, wouldn't it read as much on my white plastic security -cum- ID badge?

I say yes, and I am unanimous.

Then there are the people who just can't be bothered to call me Matthew at all.

This second group of people only half remember my name and call me Michael.

Once they feel warmed up to me, they may even call me Mike. Which is very kind on their part, and I'm sure they feel that way.

I never take the time to correct the public. If they can't read my tag, I'm just glad they made it as far as the library. It's the right place to start when you want to learn how to read.

Co-workers are another thing. I will correct a co-worker who calls me Matt. Business Etiquette, and Library Etiquette for that matter, dictate that the person should be called by the name they initially introduce themselves by. That's not so hard is it?

Unless they like to be called Jiggles, Hoppy, or Dingles. These names are best reserved for 1930's British School chums whom you vacation with during summer holidays.

Moral of this blog: Say my name, say my name.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Libraries, Gaming in

I'm attending the 1st Annual ALA Gaming Conference in Chicago. I'll be wearing a navy blazer and an ascot (today...not everyday, don't be so literal.) Say hello if you see me. But no autographs, please.

Yesterday was interesting. Great speakers - especially Scott Nicholson and Eli Neiburger.

Note to librarians: If you are going to wear Birkenstocks, lose the socks.

Moral of this blog: I adore Chicago.

Friday, July 20, 2007

You?, What are

hotty mc hottensteinAnd I was suddenly on gaurd. I am often asked questions at the reference desk that I take several moments to process:

"How long does chlamydia take to clear up?"
"Will you proof read my resume?"
"How much does a new car cost?"

But this one got me. "What are you?"

Let me build the scene for you.

I was standing at the reference desk, looking pert (as per usual), when a white haired gentleman approached the desk.

I was looking the part of the dapper young man, soft green shirt - green, navy and white polka dotted neck tie. I could go on.

He came up to the desk and said to me "What are you?"

I thought for a minute. Should I just go ahead and reveal that I am a celebrity librarian? I supposed he meant my position within the organization. Often, because I am male, and young, I am mistaken for paraprofessional staff.

And you know how the public likes to reserve their big questions for the librarians.

So, I replied, quite confidently - sure I had the answer he was looking for "I am a Librarian."

He looked confused. "No, no" he muttered while shaking his head in the negative. He tried again "I mean, what are you?"

Isn't it quite obvious what I am? A well dressed, 30 year old, homosexual, Jewish librarian. But I can't say that, right?

Thankfully, my Library School ™ training included the Reference Interview.

And so I asked "I'm not sure what you are asking. What am I? My profession?"

which I already knew he wasn't looking for.

To which he replied "Your background...." Mind you, this is his first question as he approaches the desk.

So, I told him my background "Kent State University." I was proud saying it too.

Kent Read, Kent Write, Kent State!

"All those shootings" he said. I assured him it happened long before I attended.

"But you still haven't answered my question. What are you?" So, I had to say it again "Sir, I am not sure what you are asking."

"Ethnically" he said.

I've never been asked that. So gentle readers, I told him. My family is from Eastern France - Alsace.

And that, dear reader, was the entire reference question.

Moral of this blog: Always end each reference transaction with "Did that completely answer your question?" or "Now get away from me." The choice is yours.

Monday, June 04, 2007

It, Tag You're

Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people tags 4 people and posts their names their blog names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog. hopes they notice they have been tagged and continue this chain ad nauseum.

Thanks Dish!

So, 8 facts about the Well Dressed Librarian:

1. When I was 7 or so, I had a cat named Prissy that wore a strand of red coral beads.
2. I swear much more than I should.
3. I hate watching people eat. Mastication is an ugly, ugly thing.
4. I took up smoking because I thought it would make me look more masculine. I was a freshman in college - and it really seemed like a great idea. I now realize I just looked like Joan Crawford.
5. If I could go out to lunch with a fictional character, I would choose Miss Marple.
6. I check my e-mail more than 25 times a day. And that is being generous.
7. It amuses me when people say "You're not from around here - you have an accent."
8. I amend documents when ever I want. See above for details.

So, lucky bloggers, whom shall I choose?

How about, in no special order:

The little brother I wished I had, but didn't
A cute Aussie Librarian that I found while researching "23 things everyone should know."
Another gorgeous celebrity who doesn't happen to be locked up in a California prison for violating probation until June 26th.
Another stylish librarian...though this one is surrounded by children.

Moral of this blog: I used to hide during tag. I hate running.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Friends, Helping Out Old

Do you blog? If yes, then please consider participating in an online survey
from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Information
and Library Science. The study, Blogger Perceptions on Digital Preservation,
is being conducted under the guidance of the Real Paul Jones. The study team is interested in hearing from all bloggers on their perceptions on digital
preservation in relation to their own blogging activities, as well as the
blogosphere in general. To hear more about this survey, please visit the
study's fact sheet at this web address . From there, you can linkout to the web-based survey. The survey will be available through May 23,
2007. We believe blogs are valuable records of the human experience. Help to
contribute to continued access to these important records by participating
in our study. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Carolyn Hank,
the study Principle Investigator, at hcarolyn@email.unc.edu. Thanks!

Moral of this blog: Carolyn is sassy.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Librarians, Celebrity

Moral of this blog: This is exactly what work is like. For me.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mental Illness, Dealing with

mental!Gentle Readers, I know this is a touchy subject, and as usual, I will deal with the subject carefully.

When we leave the hallowed halls of Library School ™, we are ready to catalog, provide readers advisory, conduct a fairly decent reference interview - and some people even leave with a firm grasp of bibliometrics. Dealing with mental illness is not one of those subjects that most Universities deal with.

And before you think I'm referring to your co-workers, let me assure you I am talking about customers.

Rarely, if ever are we briefed on the ways of customer service - let alone mental illness. It can be very scary for a new librarian to deal with. Yet at some point, all of us do. It might be people from group homes, meth-clinics, or just good old fashioned crazy people. Nevertheless, we are sometimes dealt a hand we are not prepared to deal with.

Often, we learn on our feet how to deal with this from wizened co-workers who have been dealing with said customer for years. It might be a new customer that no one has figured out yet. These are the moments when we must rely on our own good judgment, if we have any to start with.

Most librarians are trained to gather information. I do not think this stops with the "book kind" - we can assess a situation quickly and clearly, and start thinking of answers or where we can get those answers.

So is dealing with a mentally ill person like the performing the ultimate Reference Transaction? Quite possibly.

First we have to size up the situation - is the person mentally ill or just really quirky? Or are they a bonafide nut job? This is where our journey begins. Sadly, unlike tartan plaids, we can not identify them easily. What then can we look for?

A few quick tips:

They have a shopping cart.

"Wait!" you cry "They might be homeless", but I haven't finished.

They have a shopping cart filled with clown costumes.

They talk to themselves angrily - and not the way you and I do when we can't figure out where we put the portable phone down somewhere in the stacks.

Mismatched socks, and not in the cute, bohemian style favored by punk teens and aspiring geeks.

They are wearing more than one watch.

Quick, tourette-like barks at their reflection in shiny objects.

Manic pacing.

They are wearing shorts during the winter. Academic Librarians may be confused by this point. Bear with me.

Arguments with potted plants.

Seemingly bewitched screaming and kicking a la 17th C Salem.

Now that you have identified your mentally ill person, how do you deal with it? Often, we are tempted to pretend we don't notice it. Customers that come to the desk and complain are greeted with "I have no idea what you are talking about" looks, and or frightened reassurances that "they'll probably leave soon."

This doesn't cut it. The public library is for everyone, but it is also our job to make sure the people using the library are getting the most out of their experience.
It is our job to make sure that the majority of our customers can continue doing what they are doing. This is the part that makes most of us nervous. We have to confront the customer who is upsetting the rest of the library users.

A good start is to ask "Is everything OK today?"

Usually, you'll receive an affirmative answer. This will have to do until they start acting up again. Acting up. That little phrase means so little and so much all at the same time. Grandmother's use it to describe mendacious little children. Farmers use it to describe randy cattle. I use it to describe behavior that is not acceptable in a library - or behavior causing a disturbance or feelings of fear to other customers.

Our own safety is an issue. My cardigan and silk neck wear are not exactly going to keep me safe from a sudden lash out. Though in my vivid imagination, they are.

A second approach to the customer should be a gentle but firm statement of what you perceive the problem to be.

"Your behavior is making other customers upset. Is there anything I can help you with today?"

Mumbled responses are not acceptable. If they say there is nothing you can help them with, remind them that you do not want to speak with them again, or you will have to ask them to leave.

Three strikes your out in my world. Remember, if you feel unsafe, take another staff person with you. I prefer large, uniformed staff. Cleaning people and security are great. A second line of defense includes senior librarians who have seen everything, and third interns who have no idea what is going on. Plus it is good for them to learn sooner than later.

It is always an option to call the police. They may not respond, but you should make that effort if you are afraid, or if the behavior escalates.

It is important to remember that many mentally ill people do not know that they are upsetting other people, frightening children, or communicating with artificial, potted plants.

Libraries are about the last place mentally ill people can go. Public policy prohibits us from profiling, or kicking out people we just deem hard to deal with. Mental illness is a handicap, and must be treated as one. But just like a customer who will not behave, should a mentally ill person BE that person, they too must leave our small bastion of civility.

You are not a bad person for making a library feel like a safe place for others.

You might be a bad person if you ran your neighbors dog over on the way to work. You also might be a bad person if you are stealing tea bags out of the staff canteen. Finally, you might be a bad person if you regularly have cell phone conversations while sitting Reference Desk - but that is just my firm judgment.

So new librarians, welcome to the public library. This welcome is extended to those who have yet to deal with this on the public floor.

How do we show up prepared? Perhaps a few classes on Customer Service, Social Work, or Diversity would prepare us a little better. I can catalog a 17th century Bible translated from German - but I still wonder what to do about the man who yells at the recycling bins.

Moral of this blog: Happy days are here again....

Monday, April 02, 2007

Fence, Rabbit Proof

no no naughty bunnyIt should not surprise any of you that I am not only an impressively talented librarian, but also a consummate gardener. Gardening allows me literally to plan for the future. So last fall, I spent an entire afternoon planting no less than 200 bulbs, in the lawn of my gracious, yet historic home.

And would you believe this Spring, as if called from the heavens, little sprouts came up, exactly where I wanted them. Dozens and dozens. It was lovely. I admired them each morning, squatting carefully - coffee in one hand, cigarette in the other. I'm sure my neighbors wondered why someone would be admiring the ground so closely in such nice trousers. I'm very sure one of my neighbors did, and she may win the award for being even nosier than me.

At any rate, on Saturday morning, I noticed that some of the tops of my sure to be prize winning tulips had been eaten. Not nicely chewed, or even mowed down - but eaten. With no time to be lost, I slipped out of my wellies, and into my loafers. I was off to the hardware store.

I bought cedar stakes and heavy, mesh netting - and constructed my very own Rabbit Proof Fence ™.

You sit and wonder, what the hell is he talking about? Has the public library finally driven him batty? No gentle readers.

As I pounded in the last of the fence, I thought to myself "I wonder if this is what the Reference Desk is like to the public". I actually thought that, in addition to the fact that I was thinking that my scarf was blowing rather dramatically behind me as I stood in the yard. The breeze was quite strong, I'm sure it gave quite an effect to who ever was in the Italian Villa across the street - I saw their net curtains move.

But returning to my point - in Library School ™, we learned about something called Fort Reference. And we were warned that it was quite possibly the most awful thing in the world we could do to our customers. And it is true.

First of all, customers don't say "REFERENCE", that is a librarian word. We have lots of them, and we are all slightly guilty (some more than others)of employing the lingo as if we studied library elocution at Mrs. Porters School for Girls. They don't get it, and we just scare them away.

Then the desk, that big formidable desk with the sign (or three) near by that tells the customer they are approaching something that looks like a desk, but its labeled something else.

Sort of like me in an automotive supply store - belts and car bits and other whatnot. I don't know what the hell it all means - I have to count on a)accurate signage that speaks my layman language and b)something practical and noticeable.

And is the desk approachable? Do folks in wheelchairs have to look up at you? Does the counter hit the customer at the waist or higher? More over, do you loom behind the desk? Classic Red Flags.

Is your Fort Reference covered even more with lots of brochures, business cards, phones, and computer monitors? Hmm. Bad news.

Is your Fort Reference a Rabbit Proof Fence?

Trust me, the customers want to get at our greens - and we need to let them have at.

You might be the best librarian in the world, and your Fort Reference is scaring them away. Assess your situation and make appropriate changes.

If you can't get rid of the desk, stand in front of it. You shouldn't be working on off desk projects while you are on desk anyway. How do I know this? I, gentle reader, am the Well Dressed Librarian. I just know these things. Don't question me.

Moral of this blog: Aww. Bunnies.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Cleaning, Spring

Spring cleaning. On this first day of Spring, could there be two words that could make one happier? Perhaps Macy's Sale, Bow Tie, or Russian Blue - but those perhaps are only words that would delight me.

Spring cleaning, as any good librarian knows, is not confined solely to ones home. It also applies to the workplace.

And while one is tempted to remind the custodial staff of this grand task, it is my self imposed duty to remind you, gentle reader, that it is time to say out with the old and out with more old.

I can imagine clenched fists, firmly set jaws and the occasional roll of the eye. Though this may be genetic, as I've met several people with eyes that wander, or roll without any particular reason evident.

"WDL, how to I know where to begin?" you ask. Quite conversationally, it would be my advice to start in the place you use most. Perhaps for some of you - this is your office, while others may become excited that I mean their kitchens. And nothing is as rewarding as a clean space. So for the time being, let your maids have the day off - and pull up your yellow rubber gloves. It is time to start the spring cleaning.

Signs that you are in your "most used space"

When you enter this space, you are comfortable. You have your coffee here, you keep an extra pair of shoes here. You may even have little boxes of chocolates in the drawers of this space. To begin, you must assess the situation. Using my standards, of course you should begin cleaning here. And I am unanimous.

To begin, you should have a box labeled "to do", a box labeled "done" and a rubbish bin. If done properly, most of it should end up in the rubbish bin. Or recycling bin, if you are expertly efficient. Give yourself a time limit. 20 minutes. Sort with your first instinct. If you don't know if you are working on something, chances are you aren't, and won't for a while.

The bonus of Spring is that it lasts for several weeks. This gives you ample opportunity to get into the corners often neglected during your daily routine.

Why stop at your desk? Co-workers who are off for the day, or on vacation are excellent candidates for your help. I'm sure they would be pleased if you made their spaces look as tidy as yours. After all, a clean desk means an organized mind. Again, I'll stress that you all agree. Lots of clean desks just show how organized your mind really is. An additional perk is that it is sure to spark conversation with your office mates. They may feign indignance, but I assure you - it is only a clever playground trick to make you have a nice cup of tea with them. Maybe even some small biscuits.

Once you have filled up your recycling bin, and sorted your whatnot, this is the perfect opportunity to bleach your desk. Nothing says I've cleaned my office like the smell of bleach. Often, it can be found in the custodial cupboards . I know you have access to them because we've all cleaned up vomit, or a powder room messes at some point in our illustrious career's. You can use papertowel, or cut up that county crazy quilt that has been hanging on the wall for years. No one will miss it, and they will all be happy the office is tidy.

Leaving post it notes for the custodial staff to wash your trash bin with soap and hot water will round out your office cleaning adventure. Your custodial staff will appreciate the fact that you acknowledge and recognize the importance of their jobs. You may even want to leave a few coupons for ammonia or floor wax for them. Nothing says "I'm thinking of you & bully for a job well done" like a well written note on office stationery. Really, it IS the details that matter. I feel silly even reminding you of these things.

Removing books from the shelves for the pages to dust is also another thoughtful gesture. Common sense dictates that we start in the most heavily used areas of the collection. Customers won't mind searching through carts of 700's and 800's with the knowledge that the shelves are being washed, and polished. If you have the time, finding an extension cord for the Hoover, and leaving it in the stacks just ices the cake. One must think of the public while Spring Cleaning.

And while you are in the stacks, a good weed couldn't hurt either. After all, it is less for the pages to put back. Tidy stacks are happy stacks I always think. Be sure to take the carts immediately down to Cataloging for them to discard. I find it best to attach a quick note with ribbon to each of the carts I take down. This not only ensures that the note will stay in place, but the aesthetic value is beyond words. I once saw our cataloger weeping when I brought down just two carts. It warmed my heart to know she was so moved.

There are other projects one can take the lead on - steaming the public furniture, polishing door knobs, and refreshing the paper shredder with perfume samples from the magazines. There is nothing quite like a paper shredder that smells like roses on a warm summer day.

Another helpful project is collecting all of the rubber stamps and soaking them in a simple solution of rubbing alcohol and water. While they should soak for a few days, you may see colleagues grabbing them out - circulation staff have been so surprised that I've done this for them in the past that they have taken to putting them all in a locked drawer. Kind of them really to put them all in one place for me!

And who can clean properly when the windows are closed, and the blinds are drawn? No one! Open them all up, and set to work. One must make the most of their off desk time, and nothing leaves you feeling quite so rewarded as productivity.

If the spirit moves you, head straight into the staff lounge. Cleaning out an icebox can really improve staff morale. You should see the looks of surprise when they open the door to the icebox! I've seen many leave quickly, and share the news with other coworkers. While the freezer is defrosting, this frees up time to wash staff mugs and toss any that are cracked or permanently stained. Putting them back on the shelves in color order reminds them that they work in a library. Crack out that label maker to let the staff know where their freshly cleaned bits of crockery are: Cleaning People, Paraprofessionals, and Professional Staff a.k.a LIBRARIANS. Do capitalize librarians to stress the importance. Add italics if you feel the need - and of course place them in order of authority.

With all the extra room you've created in the shelves, you are saying "We have room to grow." Your message will be loud and clear that you are a team player AND tidy!

With the custodial staff tasked to all the other details - someone has to take care of the rest. Make yourself that special person.

Moral of this blog: Cleanliness is next to G-dliness.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

At Home with the WDL

As a special supplement to the regular blog, an interview was granted inside the author's home.

We sat down with Matthew, a.k.a The Well Dressed Librarian, on a cold and windy afternoon. We were treated to coffee and little cakes in front of a delightfully warm fireplace, situated at the front of a large mid 19th century house. Our interests were with him, but he often and unexpectedly turned the subject back towards the state of libraries today. Our focus remained steady - and here, we present the Well Dressed Librarian at home.

Frequently talking with his hands, and with a very large Russian Blue comfortably seated next to him, we began our interview as the deco mantle clock chimed 2.

Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging back in the fall of 2003. I originally started as a way to connect with other librarians my own age. I was honestly surprised when I started graduate school and learned that the field was non-traditional in that many people became librarians after having already earned one or two other Masters degrees. I felt alone at times, and realized I would be able to reach out to a larger body of "new librarians",he noted while making quotes with his fingers, more easily. I had no idea that I would still be blogging 4 years later.

How has your blog changed over the course of four years?

I think that I originally started out to document my experiences - anecdotally. Someone called it blogging from the trenches, and actually, that was quite an apt description then. I would make my experiences into little stories -people responded right away. I think it made other young librarians realize they weren't alone in this venture. At times I used it as my bully pulpit, and as my voice developed - I began noticing what other blogs didn't do. The blogs that existed were about people who happened to be librarians -avid readers, knitters or the like...then there were the technical and scholarly blogs. I didn't want that voice either. I wanted something more niche market - that's really when the WDL blog started to evolve.

What do you mean by evolve?

Grow, change. I had to make sure that the tone was consistent - never falling into the scholarly or technical. I was in grad school - I wasn't an expert - who was I to talk? At that point it was safest writing about what I did know - my own experiences. After I graduated with my MLIS, I didn't feel it was fair to continue that tone anymore. Now that I was a real librarian, I had to figure out what this blog was going to be about. So, I decided I would not write about what was happening in libraries - plenty of other people did that already. I decided I would write about what I wanted to happen in libraries. That idea blossomed into something I never imagined. Not even I realized at that time I had quite so many opinions!

An almost suppressed laugh and ,from what we realized as the interview progressed, a characteristic smirk crept across his face. Opinions indeed. How do you choose what you'll write about on any given day?

I carry a little black moleskine in my bag. Ideas come into my head all the time. I jot them down, and when I feel that I have enough to write about - I compose something. One small rule - when I read it out loud to myself, I have to laugh at some point or it doesn't get printed. Honestly, the things that I write often surprise me. I'm willing to go for weeks without printing something if I don't think it is any good. Mind you, this doesn't mean I'm not writing.

So there is stuff out there that we haven't seen?

Oh God YES! Piles of things. Admittedly, some of the stuff I've written and printed was crap. People generally let me know when it is. I don't go back and remove it though. I just move on.

So, back to our question - have you found your voice?

Sure. I don't know. No one else is doing the Miss Manners thing, well, except Miss Manners. I find the tone amusing - not too "know it all", but not too editorial. I'm not telling people what to do, or how to do it. I'm just setting an example by writing about how one little librarian does it. I just happen to like the way I do it. Kind of AARC2 with a twist of lime. Library Science has a bad reputation stemming from deep stereotypes within our profession. Injecting humor into it just does it for me.

You said people let you know when you've written something bad....

They let me know when I've written something good too. It is not all negative. I admit, I'm addicted to technorati [www.technorati.com], I'm always looking to see if I've been linked, mocked, called on the carpet, or enjoyed.

What draws you to blogging, rather than writing a column or writing a book?

Hmmm. I do write columns for the local newspapers - obviously, I can't use the same tone I use in my blog.I think I'd get fired. I never thought I had enough ideas to write a whole book, but after looking over everything today - I see I have enough material to have written something! Blogging is quick, easy, and instantly gratifying. I don't have to wait a week to see what I've written. I have 100% editorial control - and I don't like giving up control. No one tells me what to write. I like the feedback random strangers give me, as well as the commentary from regular readers. And I'm fairly anonymous. That is fun in and of itself.

But you call yourself a celebrity! How can you be anonymous and a celebrity?

It is part of the character in the blog - there is a lot of me in this celebrity librarian - strong opinions, a slight air of elitism, a dash of bitchy. I'm not the celebrity. The Well Dressed Librarian is.

And you are well dressed....

Thank you.

What do you do? We know you are well dressed and a librarian - but what do you actually do?

I'm a full time adult services reference librarian at a public library, and a part time Visual Resources Librarian at a University. At the public library I work with a team of librarians on public and staff training, as well as doing PR. At the University, I am a "pioneer", mostly working alone - and sometimes with IT. I'm in the process of digitizing the slide collection, as well as searching for a DAM to help me store and deliver moving images, sound, and nearly a century of campus event photographs. It keeps me busy. I like being a librarian.

Do you think that your blog makes a difference?

Loaded question! This gives me the perfect chance to be totally egomaniacal. But sure. I'm not teaching people how to use an iPod, or embrace Library 2.0. Aaron Schmidt, Michael Stephens and Stephen Abram have that covered. Jessamyn West keeps the home front on its toes, Rachel Singer reminds the Gen-Xers we aren't alone. We can't all be soldiers. Some of us are nurses. My blog is the equivalent of the Andy Rooney spot at the end of 60 minutes. A laugh to remind people that our job isn't all work and no play.

What blogs do you read?

I keep them linked in my sidebar. I could spend my day reading everything - but the ones I've linked keep me laughing, and informed. There are many other great blogs out there, new ones everyday. Who knows who I'll add to the sidebar next. If they a) are librarians and b)make me laugh, chances are, I'll link to them.

Do you have any words of advice for aspiring librarians or bloggers?

Come to the table with an open mind. The era of stodgy, shushing libraries is over. Those librarians are on their way out because of retirement. Gen X is pouring in. Know that public libraries are community centers, where we act almost as Social Workers with Information Retrieval backgrounds. Be prepared.
Academic libraries can be just as demanding as graduate school! We are there to provide information, not to decide what information people get. We are not filters, we are retreival experts.

Bloggers should find a unique voice, and run with it. Look for what you want - if it's not there, create it. There are many types of bloggers, and you don't have to be curing cancer with your blog. Then again, if its crap - don't write often. Cue smirk.

Thank you for sharing with us this afternoon.

Thank you for listening. Now leave.

Ties, Bow

Yet again, I find it imperative to stress the importance of neck wear. Here the art of being buttoned up and librarianesque is cleverly illustrated.

I should note I am also wearing my ALA issue "LIBRARIAN" pin. It is worn on the left lapel, just under the button hole usually reserved for a small rose bud.

This early morning picture also captures the flatcap - de rigour for Well Dressed Librarians, notably and historically favored by French Resistance Fighters during WWII. One musn't forget history.

Moral of this blog: Tweed and cashmere are perfect for cold winter weather.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Libris, Rex

Rex Libris Comic
Moral of this blog: Toy Librarians are hot

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Way, Which

Where the hell am I?In my coveted opinion, the last thing we want to do is confuse the customers more than we have to.

This brings me to the issue of signage.

This is a very touch and go issue among professionals in our field. That is because there are several approaches to this obviously sensitive issue.

Some believe that signs should point to everything. And sometimes the signs should have a sign just to be sure.

And of course, you can never be too sure.

How much signage is enough signage? Let me illustrate this idea for you.

Above the Xerox, is it necessary to have a hanging sign that says "photo copier", and another engraved plastic sign (with braille) to announce yet again that there is a copier under the copier sign?

"NO!" you heartily declare as you sip your tea, carefully placed with the handle pointing to the left in the matching saucer.

"YES!" you heartily declare as you pop one more percocet.

This is the problem. Too many cooks in the kitchen. Layer upon layer, generation after generation of librarian designing and placing illustrative signs throughout the hallowed corridors of the library. Only no one steps back to look. Soon you have a literal yellow brick road to every book in the entire building.

"But we are helping the customers!" you say. "They need this signage, it guides them."

I hate to break it to you, but that much signage is as helpful as a blind seeing eye dog. Though, maybe that explains the braille on the Xerox sign...

I bravely went where no librarian had gone before. I did a signage inventory. Go ahead, do one. You'll be amazed. A few tips about good signage:

a)One good sign can do the job
b)Fonts should be consistent on all signs
c)Choose one color. Rainbow land confuses the customers. Red doesn't make it seem more urgent to the customer.
d)Never, under any circumstances, adhere a sign to the wall with scotch tape
e)Never, under any circumstances, should you hand print a sign. I don't care how "pretty" your handwriting is
f)Do not use a type writer to create signage or hand outs - unless you still have a type written card catalog that is used.
g)Use their terminology - not yours. "ASK HERE" means more than "REFERENCE"
h)Remove extraneous signage. Just do it.
i)No matter how many signs you put up, people are still going to ask directional questions. Shut up and answer them - the signs are not getting paid to work, you are.
j)Signs should be simple - not involved. i.e. FICTION: SECOND FLOOR BEHIND THE NEW FICTION SHELVING ON THE WEST SIDE OF THE BUILDING. oh yeah, that helped.
k)No cute names i.e. BOYS POTTY - just put MENS ROOM on the sign. They are still going to pee on the floor.
l)Use legible font. Arial Narrow is nice. No one else thinks that NON-FICTION spelled in Renaissance Calligraphy is fancy but you.
m)Identify LARGE PRINT collections with signs written in LARGE PRINT
n)During tax season, no matter how many signs you put up, people will ask where the tax forms are
o)High traffic areas should be in visible areas, so they don't require exhaustive signage
p)Identify special amenities on the front door with catchy signs - i.e. "WIFI here" - and repeat throughout the building with the same logo - on internal windows & doors. Transparent clings are awesome.
q)Think about creating a directory in a brochure format to hand out to new customers. Practice makes perfect.
r)Bring a friend (if you have any that aren't cats or dogs) to the library with you - and walk around for a while. Take notes & make use of them. Sometimes what we see becomes landscape.
s)Walk through the collection once a week and take notes about what signage is working, and what isn't. Don't fix it right then - you'll get distracted. Put aside time to do the correcting later.
t)Don't put signs in obscure places. A sign on the back of the 900's shelf is never going to be seen. Unless your collection is backwards, in which case you have bigger fish to fry.
u)Explore multi-lingual signage ONLY if your community is mutli-lingual. It doesn't make you look more cosmopolitan to have signage in Esperanto or French if it isn't necessary.
v)Keep signage up to date. If you've shifted your shelves, the labels should reflect that.
w)90% of the public has no idea what Dewey Decimal is. Think of this when you are creating signage. "700's this way" is about as helpful as a rubber crutch.
x)Raganathan told us to save the time of the customer. Consider this when revamping the signage.
y)Be consistent with your signage materials -stick to one color and material.
z)Signage that can be updated easily is best - slip in signs, and those kept in clear acrylic holders are faster to update than engraved or brass plaques.

As you can see the list could go on. Keep the approach simple & clean. Merchandise with your signs. You'll see that a properly labeled library is not only more efficient, but easier for the customers to use. And the library is for the customers, not us. No matter what you think.

Moral of this blog: I'm signing off now

Monday, February 05, 2007

Lie, Statistics Never

Of course, neither do I, so it should come as no surprise to you that I have unearthed these startling statistics, facts, and figures.

I was innocently going through filing cabinets while I waited for the Xerox to warm up. Yes, I said Xerox - not copier machine, because I am from Rochester, New York. Where was I? Oh yes.

As in any good story, this begins with me going through something that

a)isn't mine
b)should be locked or
c)is hidden from plain view.

In this case, I haven't decided which scenario best fits - librarians in addition to not marrying are notoriously nosey or considered busy bodies. I pride myself on this. At any rate, I just kept rifling through these drawers, when I found a binder of old newspaper clippings.

Apparently, because of a shortage of librarians when this article was written, they neglected to note the paper they clipped it from, and the date it ran. Because I am not only attractive, but smart - I pieced together some information.

This article was ran by AP press - so it was a national article. And it was written by one Miss Mary Hazeltine - preceptor of the Wisconsin Library School.

I am sure many of you are absolutely sitting in horror that I am not only saying mean things about the founder of one of the best known programs in the country, but also a dead woman. Don't hate me because I found this first. Besides, we all look better in black than bitter.

A bit of digging, and I found that Miss Hazeltine was in Madison as the preceptor from 1906-1938 when she retired. So it must have been written during her reign.

I did not attend this library school, and it appears to be quite a good thing. Wisconsin librarians don't marry. Either did Miss Hazeltine. Is there any surprise with her gathering statistics like a crow finding shiny objects all day?

The article captivates one for many reasons:

a) It was published nationally - implying people of this era liked to read figures like this
b) There were statistics kept on librarians ! I wonder if they were tagged like sea tortoises that are released back into the wild....
c) It was important enough to cut out and put in a scrap book of articles at My Library™.
d)Stephen Abram didn't write it

I could go on. But this got me thinking, statistics can prove anything we want. What Miss Hazeltine was trying to prove is a little sketchy in my mind, but never the less, she made her point. Using facts and figures.

I personally like statistics because I use them when I am trying to get a project done. We had so much lit review in Grad School, my ulcer literally bled. There is no way I am throwing this skill out for any reason. Now, when I really need something, I just look for graphs, charts, and other assorted figures that prove my point - and hope that a co worker hasn't thought of doing the same thing from the opposing view point. Outside of being trumped at my own game, it would be unsightly if I blushed during a meeting.

Olive skin doesn't blush properly - I've always thought that.

But numbers can also be your friend when you are trying to sway local politicians, or towns people. Mostly I worry that people no longer use the term "towns people" - but more importantly these figures can get us new buildings, larger budgets, more shelves, or something as simple as a grant.

So, like our great, dead predecesor Miss Mary Hazeltine, get your facts straight - and share them with the world.

Moral of this blog: I can't get married. Write about that Mary Hazeltine.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Chango, Presto

Poof, your a librarianWhat do librarians do? This is a magical question. I say it is magical because you will never get the same answer from two librarians.

Because you asked, I will break down the responses by type:

a)"The Librarian who is assuming you are questioning their integrity" response
b) The "Well, since you asked - pull up a chair" response
c) The "We're magic" response

I don't know why this happens. Librarians are generally a very gentle breed, friendly with children and often have favorites. They do tend to snack and or graze frequently. Studies show that Librarians hoard chocolates,candies, and mints in their desk drawers. Sadly, many are drawn to unflattering holiday sweaters - which can usually be corrected by rubbing their noses on the offending item.

But back to what I was telling you about, gentle readers.

Librarians seem to be awfully protective about what they do. This may stem from where the question comes from. When placed in a review - often there is a visceral reaction. Faster than a frog at Calaveras County Fair, a Librarian can leap to unimaginable conclusions. This librarian might feel their integrity is in question - and rather than explain what they do, they defend what they do. This behavior is often accompanied by severe migraines, snappish behavior toward innocent by standers, and coffee breath.

Then their is the librarian who loves what they do - as it could and should fairly be said. Most librarians love their jobs. When asked what they do, this librarian explains to you the history of written language. Further, they might even bring a website up to illustrate their point - carefully describing everything from cuniform tablets to Melville Dewey. This librarian misinterprets the question as "what have libraries and librarians done throughout history?" - still not answering the question "what do librarians do?" These librarians are often have a gentle sparkle in their eyes, tend towards having a small bit of spittle in the middle of the top lip, and keep band aids in their pockets.

The third librarian is a challenge to the profession. When the question is posed, suddenly the subject changes altogether - the weather is fine today! Why don't you take a seat while I do this for you? They tend to click faster than the customer can comprehend, don't relay sources to the customer when giving information, and retrieve materials from the shelve without walking the customer to them. This librarian is under the impression they are helping the customer. When confronted with this behavior - teary, doe eyes appear and true shock sets in. Iterations of "But I was just helping the customer" can be heard throughout the building. This type of librarian is characterized by slightly sweaty hands, quick movements, and a full knowledge of the collection they deal with. Very non-agressive, usually passive - may have a penchant for houseplants or older paperback books.

Why the secret kids?

In my esteemed opinion, it should be our job to put ourselves out of work everyday. There should be no mystery to the profession. While the above librarian types are all paid actors, they may seem familiar.

Many librarians seem to think that if they spill the proverbial MLS beans, no one will ever come back to ask them a question. Some face this with anger, some with confusion, some with dillusion.

The fact of the matter is, the more we teach them, the better user they will become. The questions will be formed better before they hit the desk - allowing us to give better responses. Our answers will be better because we are teaching the customer to speak our language. Administratively, talking about what you do lets the management know that you aren't blogging from work, creating naughty avatars for Second Life, and generally moving up the Literatti championship ladder.

In fact, if anyone, the bosses should know what you are doing. But group these things into nice packets - do not note "sent 43 e-mails Monday, weeded 236 titles from collection (PS if you did HURRAH!!), etc." They want to know things like "Sent out materials for Grant Proposal, completed 2 staff trainings with handouts, etc".

And last, your co-workers. Librarians should always tell their coworkers what they are doing. This is a must, and it is more than good librarian etiquette. You will assist in eliminating duplication, confusion, and overall hatred of yourself. No one wants to work with the mystery librarian.

You ask, how do you know all this, you are so young (some might even add "and evenly complected"). To them I reply,openly, and honestly - I read it in Chan's Guide to Cataloging.

Moral of this blog: Don't question the librarian

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Jews can do it too!

OI!Yesterday, an elderly Gentleman had several questions for me. The interview started with him asking me if I could help him with a certain Geological problem. When we found what he was looking for (or what I was looking for) he told me that I couldn't have found the right answer.

15,000 years ago? How could that be. Why G-d hadn't created the Earth by then. The Bible tells us so.


I told him that an Academic Library might be more his cup of tea, and he said no, that he'd be fine.

****10 minutes later****

Same man. Would I now help him find out about a holiday called kwanz- AYE?

You mean Kwanzaa? OK, I thought so.

We found a webpage, and when he saw the Kinara - he said "SO, what is this? Some Black Jew Holiday? I assured him it wasn't. He seemed content with the real definition and such.

He thanked me and walked away.

****3 minutes later*****

The same little old man came over and put his hand on my shoulder, and leaned in with a question "Are you a Christian?"

I shook my head and said no, that I was Jewish. To which he replied...

"Well, you still did very well."

Moral of this blog: Oh, I'm so relieved.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Collections, Just In Case

But I might need this -
There are two conflicting sentiments at play in our profession - being the keepers of information & knowledge AND collection development.

Perhaps I should re-word this: To some professionals there seem to be two conflicting sentiments at play in our profession.

I imagine many of you putting your tea cup back into your saucers, and declaring "What is this man driving at?" I hope none of you slopped.

The Just In Case collection is smothering hundreds of libraries across the world. We must realize that our organizations can not be everything to everyone. Go ahead. Gasp. It is true. We need to depend our on sister organizations to provide content that we simply do not have room for.

I'm sure many of you have heard of those places called "Archives" - they are entire buildings. I'm not talking about the few shelves and rooms that have been put aside in libraries across this nation. Perhaps a private collection of your library's history is appropriate in these spaces. 100 years worth of Newspapers from any town but your own is NOT an archive. It is a pile of rubbish. Go ahead, delcare me crazy. I stand by what I say, and I am unanimous.

Further than old, rotting paper - you do not need to keep the 1982 Guide to Atari repair. "But its the only one in my county!" you counter. Just because it is the last one, does not make it special. Would you keep the last piece of cheese in your icebox, simply because it was the last piece? Do you leave the last piece of pie in the tin to rot? Do you leave a box of tissue on the side table for years, simply because it holds the last tissue? Of course not. If it is not doing anyone good, if it is not being used - throw it away, price and sell the volume at a library book sale, or sell it on an online auction. If it is really, and truely that valuable - you will be richly rewarded with enough cash to purchase several more titles for your collection.

In this age of consortium, we would be unwise not to utilize them. We do not need to have everything in our own collection - our friends in the consortium can lend it to us! Quelle Concept!

And the predecessor, ILL! We can get those volumes from another library!

I hope the fog has parted for some of you. Be proactive in getting into your collections and weeding.

Then, there is the other breed of librarian, who keeps things for other purposes.

"Well, we should keep 456 phone books, just in case the program we pay $12,500.00 each year for goes down for a few hours"

"What if the power goes out? Then what?" [n.b. Nothing. No light = no reading]

"What if someone doesn't want to use the computer?" [n.b. Then go ahead and interlibrary loan in 23 reels of microfilm containing the 1930 census from Cook County, Illinois] Better yet, maybe we should buy every census in paper form! We can stack them ontop of the pile of Newspapers that are making the shelves sag!

"What if the other 4 copies get ruined/stolen/damaged?"

"It's easier for me to just use the print version, even though we pay $43,000 for an electronic database that does it faster." [n.b. see post below, practice makes perfect - you are saying to me I don't know how to use the other resource well, and I can't be bothered.

"What is a library without books?" Oh my G-d, you did not just say that outloud!

So now, my advice to you:

1. If it has dust on it, weed it.
2. If the spine is broken, weed it.
3. If there are more current books on the subject, weed it. No one wants a Fodors 1981 Florida guide. Trust me.
4. If it requires more than 2 pieces of book tape to repair, weed it.
5. If it hasn't circulated in 24 months, seriously consider weeding the book. I don't care if it cost $30.00.
6. It is true that someone might want to write a report on it, but one book isn't going to put them that far ahead. We can use the consortium, or ILL. TOSS IT.
7. Foxing - TOSS IT
8. If it is an antique - then maybe it shouldn't be in the collection. If it has local interest, keep it. If it is esoteric, sell it.
9. Do not let sentiment be your guide. Step back - as a customer would you check out a book that was soiled, torn, or missing pages? Of course not. Weed this.

Now onto ready reference. Is your Ready Reference more like a "I could hole up and live back here through a long winter" collection? I worked with a librarian, who I affectionately call the "Kentucky Librarian" - she kept a lean, mean Ready Reference collection.

I assure you that it is not hard to get out of your ergonomically correct chair, out from behind Fort Reference, and walk to the Reference Collection to find the material you are looking for/being asked for.

Do you say "BUT IT IS TOO VALUABLE to leave out for the general public" - well, we do the same thing with those crazy computers, art work, and there are 100's of unattended purses in a library at any given time. Give me a break. Get up and get it.

I want to be surrounded by a collection that supports my community of users, and enough ready reference to answer quick, "ready reference" style questions. I want a well used collection, not shelves of dusty, unattractive books.

Clinically, this behavior is known as hoarding. And trust me, with an A type personality, and border line OCD - I do not need another diagnosis. A tidy library is a happy library. And I am unanimous.

Moral of this blog: Read My Brothers Keeper if this hasn't made an impression on you.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dressed, Getting

Best costume for the DayAs one can probably imagine, getting dressed for me is an ordeal. One may look at me and think "My goodness, he is so put together", but few people realize that being in the public eye is hard. Some people are willing to waltz into the workplace wearing little more than a house jacket and slippers. I, on the other hand, have placed an extreme pressure on myself to look not only good, but impeccable. This is not only challenging, but at times upsetting, when I realize that the ascot I want to wear is at the dry cleaners, or the bowtie I like has a speck of red wine (that only I would notice) on it.

This morning for instance, I was hard pressed with what I had on. After I had changed cufflinks twice, ironed 3 pairs of trousers, and chose to wear a pair that was already hanging up, and then had the great cardigan/sports coat hunt. This is trying - really trying.

I finished finally, after 35 minutes - a very sharp, British school boy look. A navy and yellow striped tie, with a brushed silver tie bar. A white french cuff shirt, with blue cufflinks, a navy cardigan and and khakis. Completed with patent leather cordovan shoes & matching belt.

This was the process after eyebrows, moisturizer, hair (always hair last), and a once over of fragrance. I still after all these years recommend Happy for Men by Clinique. Then the hair one more time. A few pieces have to be strategically pomaded. And best, the pomade smells faintly of orange sorbet. Mmm. Delicious. But not too delicious. I want them to look, not touch. Or taste.

All for the public. I have to make these sacrifices.

Are these details lost? In our profession, isn't it the details that count?

As above pictured Edie would say "This is the best costume for the day."

A few gentle reminders to my dear readers:

*Bathe daily. This washes yesterdays grime away. Use warm water in the shower, not hot. It dries the skin.
*Moisturize. Even the bits no one sees. Our jobs are arid - and we touch lots of paper. Do this when you get out of the shower.
*Simple style. Save the special glittered, sequined, and themed sweaters for Mardi Gras.
*Geek chic is hot. Glasses, and well fitted sweaters and trousers keep the customers attention - OK, not really, but you look tremendous.
*Style is individual - find yours. What do you want to look like? What's stopping you? If you want to look like a renaissance princess, that is understandable - I would stop you too.
*Your shoes and belt should match at the very least.
*Accessorize. Don't whine and say "But I crawl around with kids all day" - you are their role model. If you want them to think looking like a schlub is OK in public, then go ahead- set your example, however flawed I may judge it to be.
*People silently judge you. At least I think people silently judge me. It makes me feel better to think they do it to you too.
*Comfortable clothes can be stylish - so don't even TRY to sell that one to me. I know better.
*Be inspired: This image puts me in the mood to dress the nines each day. I have a small post card on my dresser behind my cufflink boxLovers in a paris Cafe

Moral of this blog: Yes. I do get up at 5 AM.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Vu, Deja

Practice makes perfect. Isn't that what Mother always says? If this cliché is true, that would make all librarians nearly perfect.

A librarian who is listening will notice that we get asked the same question over and over again.

"Where are the tax forms?"
"I am writing a paper on a biography, can you help me?"
"Do you have books with legal forms?"
"Where are the law books?"
"Will you marry me?"

While it would be easy to respond in a jaded tone, roll our eyes, or point rather than move - we should ALWAYS abstain from this behavior. At all costs. Really, I feel foolish even mentioning it - but the propriety I take for granted sometimes needs to be iterated.

Each time we are asked a question, it is our chance to polish our skills one more time. How many chances in life do we have to perfect an experience? Rarely, if ever. We can do a better job each time we are approached. In fact, we should embrace each chance. They are leaving with a product we have provided them with.

Who would go back to a dentist that gave you cavities?
Who would go back to an electrician who shorted your wiring?
Who would go back to a brothel where... well, you get the idea.

We can not assure the customers that our co-workers will not respond this way, but we can assure them with our actions that we will not respond this way.

They are all original questions, with original voices. Minus the guy who mutters himself over and over again, and smells like wet baby diapers. Professionally we can not afford to marginalize the importance of our customers questions.

We'd all be out of work if it wasn't for their questions and information needs- even if your customers are college students, business men, or the general public. If you work for a library, yet never have to look for an answer - are you in the right field? Really! Imagine a gardener without a garden or plants. Wouldn't be much of a gardener. More of an armchair hobbyist - and certainly, none of us would want to be described that way.

I admit, I haven't always had nice things to say about customers, but it hasn't stopped me from providing them with the best librarianship I could muster. Each time it really does get better.

Soon, I shall be able to clairvoy the needs of the customers.

Moral of this blog: Repeat performances make us stronger

Monday, January 08, 2007

Snobs, Book

I just took this quiz that I found over at one of my favorite blogs Tiny Little Librarian. I was delighted to see I'm a book snob, first and foremost.

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Book Snob
Literate Good Citizen
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Moral of this blog: Reading is hot.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Tables, Cocktail

please save a cocktail table2007 is upon us gentle readers. The last month has been filled with travel, guests, and cocktails.

Usually, I spend time thinking of what my New Year's resolutions are going to be - only this year I started thinking about what was already good - not what I wanted to change. When I say "already good", I am talking about what works in my life, what positive things have come from my over the top, neurotic behavior. What is the clever saying? "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" - there were too many things to focus on retaining, rather that what behaviors I would discard, or modify. G-d knows I have enough bad habits, but I quite enjoy them.

One of the things I decided that I loved were my cocktail tables. How can a person have cocktail parties if they don't own cocktail tables? This is a question I am not prepared to even think about, life would be so challenging without them.

And because I love my cocktail tables sooo much, I have decided to impart more gentle wisdom on my devoted readers. There is one thing you can have in your life, if you too are devotees of the cocktail table.


I have been accused in the past of being a "Coaster Nazi", and while not a term that is often used in polite society, it is none the less true. Do not set a beverage or bevvy as we call them in my world, on a cocktail table without a coaster. To mar the beauty of a cocktail table is an unfathomable tragedy, by my own standards. Like pulling whiskers off a kitten, or letting the water run low in the goldfish bowl. Pure acts of horror. Horror. Why deface such a valuable member of your household furniture?

Now I am sure some of you are thinking "there are starving children in China, unrest in the middle east - and you are worried about water rings on a cocktail table?" To those people I say "but someone must be concerned", and frankly, I am ready to champion this cause.

My cocktail tables are vintage War era furniture. And for those of you who are virgin readers may ask "War? Which war? Vietnam?" To you, I say "no", THE WAR. WWII my dear, new, reader. They have been white washed, and look quite smart. One misplaced coffee mug could ruin them for all eternity - and so, I suggest the coaster.

My coasters are made of tumbled marble. They are smart and sturdy, and serve to protect my tables like little knights in shining marble. How many of you have suffered trying to remove a water circle from your table? I understand your pain. I purchased several pieces of War era furniture for my bedroom - the bureau was scarred with one of these milky rings. It took me forever to bring it back to its original glory - and with this task, I was converted into an advocate for those who can't speak for themselves.

My advice dear reader, as in any organized neat space, is to keep it that way. No one wants to have a cocktail party on a table that looks like it spent its best years in the back room of an Odd Bins. Encourage/Force your guests to use coasters.

This can be done by setting a good example for them by doing so yourself. If the host is doing it, it is de rigeur for the visitor as well. Some people with carpet (and I choke at the idea of carpet) ask people to remove their shoes. I have found that I'd rather have guests fully clothed in my home - but aware of leaving behind no evidence that they were here. Perhaps I've had too much Agatha Christie, but trust me, coasters are a fantastic suggestion.

May your 2007 be ring free, gentle readers.

Moral of this blog: Save the cocktail tables. What would this world be like without them?