Return of A Day In a Life of a Librarian

Back in July, I participated in a web-wide librarian event entitled Library Day in the Life.  This event was created by the terrific librarian-blogger Bobbi Newman to allow people who work in libraries to share the great variety of work we do with students, patrons, and fellow librarians.  For more on what I do, check out my post from July.

A Day in the Life of an Information Lifecycle Management Assistant

  • wake up late after a rough night due to my son having frequent coughing fits.
  • once out of bed though, he seems alert and energetic so now it’s time to chase him down to get him to school.
  • my wife drives my son and I to the school.  He goes to the childrens’ center, I go to the library.
  • sort through my email and catch up on social media sites.
  • scan a few articles from Peter Kurilecz’s Records & Archives in the News (RAIN) update, but none of them seem worth in-depth reading today.
  • spend some time planning out tasks for the work week to come.
  • worked on a project to calculate the amount each administrative office at the school would pay for records storage (costs currently absorbed by the library).
  • lunch break:  the students are back so there are nearly no seats left in the cafeteria.  I’m able to sneak into a dark corner to eat my salad and write in my journal.
  • for one hour I’m on-call to page materials to the reading room from the stacks, but I’m not needed.
  • read articles from professional literature and blogs related to libraries, archives, records management and general news.  Tag some articles on Delicious.
  • place an order to retrieve a box of student records from offsite storage.
  • get a call from the Childrens Center that my son didn’t nap well due to coughing fits, and he’s a little warm but not feverish.
  • work on accessioning five boxes of videos which includes making a preliminary inventory, labeling & barcoding the boxes and preparing accession forms.
  • talk to wife on phone about coming to pick up me & our sick son on a miserable, rainy night.
  • close out day & head to the Childrens Center.
  • my “sick” son is cheerfully jumping up & down and playing with his friends.  As usual, he doesn’t want to go home.
  • supper, tubby time, bedtime for the boy & chores for me, and that was the day that was.

I think a lot of people are doing “A Week in the Life…” but for me I will end it there unless there’s some popular demand in the comments for more.


A Day in the Life of a Librarian

Librarians everywhere are signing up for the Library Day in the Life project as a way of showing what we do to fellow librarians, library school students, and anyone curious.  I missed out on this the last time it occurred so I definitely wanted to participate this year, especially since I’ve been looking for ways to kickstart the library content on this blog.

My position at my place of work (MPOW) is Information Lifecycle Management assistant.  The job title is not the most self-evident and in the year and one month I’ve been working in this position the responsibilities and definitions have shifted.  Basically, I work with people and records whether those records be active (records management) or permanent (archives).  My typical responsibilities involve accessioning records for storage or for archives, retrieving & returning boxes at the request of an administrative or faculty office, and answering reference questions related to archival material.

That scratches the surface, and hopefully this exercise will explain more.  With no further ado, I present…

A Day in the Life of an Information Lifecycle Management Assistant


  • wake up (late).  My son gets me up with zerberts and lots of giggling. Get ready for work.
  • My wife drives my son and I to the school.  He goes to the childrens’ center, I go to the library.
  • begin work day by checking emails, planning out tasks for the day and other administrative tasks.
  • check out Twitter and FriendFeed to see how my other library peeps are doing.
  • continue an ongoing reference project to learn about details of the lives of students from China who attended the school in its early years.  This involves reviewing registrar records, yearbooks, and alumni bulletins among other things.
  • at request from a faculty assistant, arrange to have boxes picked up and returned to offsite storage
  • prepare a student file for loan to the admissions office.
  • Lunch!  I eat a salad and read the Rex Libris graphic novel.
  • Spend an hour on-call to page materials from the stacks for patrons in the reading room.  Spend the time populating a spreadsheet for records storage stats and reading scholarly articles and blogs relevant to my job.
  • At request of my manager, I refile boxes related to a reference question we worked on last week.  Also photocopy a few pages of interest to the patron.  I cut my finger when trying to remove the staple.  Ouch!
  • Resume research on Chinese students.  Also work on a similar question about the school’s earliest research in India.
  • Close out my day of work.
  • Go to childrens’ center to pick up my son.
  • Take bus to public library.  I get teased for going to the library on my time off, but MPOW generally doesn’t specialize in stuff I’m interested in.
  • Ride subway home.  My son is inordinately fussy.
  • Relieved to get home, eat supper, put the boy to bed and go to bed myself.  Whew!

I’m glad to get that done.  Now I’ll have to find time to read what everyone else wrote.

On the brink with Twitter & FriendFeed

In my efforts to be more connected with the professional community at large in library world I’ve been a member of Twitter and FriendFeed for about a year.  I liked it at first reading other people’s thoughts and ideas, sharing my own, and seeing what news and links others posted that I might not have seen otherwise (or may have ignored until a critical mass all post the same story).

Lately, I’d not been feeling the vibe:

  • Too often I was reading a lot about the mundane daily life of people I don’t even really know.
  • Some of the people I follow can “tweet” an awful lot in a short amount of time.  I’m sure they’re wonderful people, but I don’t have time/patience to read all that.
  • Since I’ve been working in records management since last summer, even the library-related content wasn’t too relevant to me.
  • I admit that I’m egotistical enough that I’m miffed that people rarely respond to anything I post.  Even my comments on FriendFeed seem to be thread killers.

One day last week I came close to deleting my Twitter and FriendFeed accounts.  But then I decided, it’s probably not them.  It’s me.

So instead, I:

  • Un-followed some of the folks who I was finding were posting the mundane/overly-frequent content.  Again, wonderful people I’m sure, but I think if this is going to work for me I have to reconcile to the fact that a “follow” is not a binding contract.
  • Put my real name into my handle to make it more professional.  It was easier on Twitter where I’m now LiamTSullivan, but on FriendFeed I have hybrid real name/nick name liamothemts.
  • Since I’d not found many people in the RIM field on Twitter on my own, I asked for good people to follow on, where else, Twitter.  Since I’m also now an assistant to the archivist at my library I also asked for good archivists to follow on Twitter.  I got an excellent response with some good suggestions from some unexpected sources.  There’s even a blog post for 25 People All Archivists Must Follow on Twitter sent to me by my wife’s cousin.
  • I’m making a concerted effort to be more participatory myself, posting work-related stuff, and responding to others.  And I think it’s working.

And thus the story of my social media midlife crisis and how it’s been satisfactorily resolved.  Now if I can just get through all the people complaining about the redesign of Facebook.

PS – Feel free to follow me on Twitter and FriendFeed and tell me I’m being a pompous windbag if you so feel inclined.


I’m a Twit

So, I finally gave in and registered for Twitter even though I really do not understand the practical purpose of the tool. I mean I understand what it’s for – telling people what you’re up to at every minute of the day – I just don’t know what it does for a shy guy like me and especially what it does professionally. Yet, I read library blog after library blog hailing Twitter as a great social networking tool. So I caved and decided to give it a try. Don’t want to be classified as a troglodyte who’s afraid of change after all.

Long-time readers will recall that I went through the same process with Facebook last year. Even though I found some things that Facebook is good for (Susan compares it to collecting one’s friends like Hummels), and find it fun to play games with my friends, professionally I’ve done zilch. Seemingly the moment I was convinced to sign up with Facebook was when Facebook-backlash began. Now people frustrated with Facebook offer plaudits for Twitter instead. So maybe I can be ahead of the curve, or at least on the curve this time. So far I’ve found that Twitter is a good forum for writing Haiku and publishing Overheard-type comments. If you want to follow me you can find me at

Here’s a typical article Why Twitter Matters from iLibrarian.

library links for 19 February 2008

To start things off today a fun Sesame Street clip, “No Cookies in the Library” (via the new WorldCat Blog):

And now a couple of links about reading and writing:

Peter Brantley Lecture

The following are notes I took at a lecture I attended recently by Peter Brantley. The notes are a bit scattershot since Brantley spoke fast and I had trouble reading my own handwriting. I was impressed that he referred to a lot of current articles in his talk, so I’ve linked them where ever possible

DLF: What Rupert Could Tell Libraries

A lecture by Peter Brantley of the Digital Library Federation

Presented Jan. 24, 2008 at Harvard University

Generation Gap

Newspapers as a comparison point vs. libraries

  • Newspapers are similar to libraries in that they make information available and hold to higher standards and ideals unlike for-profit ventures
  • Newspaper ad revenue is plummeting, off line advertising is moving online, and the result is not good news for news
  • It’s hard to make money on online advertising
  • Three ways to build an online media business to $50m in revenue by Jeremy Liew, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Feb. 26, 2007
    • broad reach – To get to $50m in revenue you would need 50 billion pageviews in a year, or just over 4 billion per month
    • demographic targeting – To get to $50m in revenue you would need 10 billion pageviews in a year, or just over 800 million per month.
    • endemic advertising – To get to $50m in revenue you would need 2.5 billion pageviews in a year, or just over 200 million per month
  • Could the ‘Wall Street Journal’ go free? According to this data the WSJ would need to increase online traffic by 12 to offset loss
  • According to the New York Times: “The strategic challenge for newspapers is not cutting costs, but how to attract a larger share of online advertising and make money off the millions of people who read them free online.”
    • They Wish Jeff Jarvis, BuzzMachine?, Dec. 18, 2007
  • Newspapers are ignoring obvious opportunities to operate more efficiently
    • Example: The Tribune papers cut an Orland Sentinel reporter known for being the best writer on NASCAR in the nation. He now publishes a successful blog on his own. There’s no reason he couldn’t have done the same thing for Tribune and brought revenue and readership to the company’s websites and papers.
  • Your real competition by Ryan Sholin, Invisible Inkling, Jan. 11, 2008
    • The competition is the web, this is not the time to wave them off
  • Newspapers and libraries are part of a larger information landscape


  • Not good. Tragic. Staff cuts.
    • $23B zapped in news stock value by Alan Muter, Newsosaur, Jan. 1, 2008
    • Making Changes Sharon Waxman, WaxWord?, Jan. 10, 2008. Former Times reporter resigned to work exclusively on her blog. “To me, this is a very exciting time.”
  • The Search Party by Ken Auletta, The New Yorker, Jan. 19, 2008
    • The nature of media may change as libraries have
    • Eric Schmidt – internet allows users to consume media in a different way
  • Comparison of library metrics over the last generation
    • Reading room visits at Libary of Congress decreasing
    • ARL Reference Queries decreasing
    • Circulation decreasing
    • ILL requests increasing (people are borrowing more books because they can see more books)

What would Rupert Say to libraries?

  • Kick butt with warm, fuzzy internet spaces and new media centers
    • Gathering spaces for studey and group work
  • Outsource redundancy:
    • relocate library contract specialists to campus business service
    • other organizations catalog books and things so you don’t have to
    • build things that will advance core values

Core Values

  1. Making information publicly accessible
  2. Preserving a record of past and present
    • No one else will do these things

Libraries must now strut our stuff

  1. Help put education in the heads of those learning
  2. Assist scientists in the discovery of our world
    • Both are really about a new sensitivity to data
  • Intervene with simplicity
  • Embrace the unexpected
    • Example The de Havilland Mosquito, a WWII bomber that excelled when all the weaponry was stripped off so that the plane was faster than anything in the sky
    • Lesson: there is something to be gained by simplicity as opposed to complexity
    • Example: Use tags instead of complex metadata (although Brantley added that “good core metadata is important” when questioned on this)

Libraries Suck at Change

library links of the day

I’m so far behind on these “of the day” posts.  I’ll start this one off with a fun clip from the Star Trek animated series:

via Librarian In Black

And now the links, focusing mainly on Library 2.0, library humor, and all of the above.

Library Links of the Day for 22 January 2008

Library Links of the Day for 11 January 2008

  • On being in bed with Google by Paul Courant (Au Courant, 11/4/07) – a response to the criticism of the University of Michigan Libraries collaboration with the Google Book Project. Some of my earlier posts on this topic include Boston Athenaeum Lecture Series: Libraries and Copyright and Library Trick or Treat.
  • Pew Internet & American Life Study has prompted numerous responses
    • Networking with the 20s and 30s (Library Stream, 1/3/08) – as a positive response to the report, suggestions for ways to market the library to people in their 20’s & 30’s (I was going to say Young Adults, but that means something else in library-land).
  • Another controversial topic is library book weeding, such as this article in the the December issue of AHA Perspectives by James W. Cortada: Save the Books! and in the Washington Post Hello, Grisham — So Long, Hemingway? by Lisa Reins (1/2/08). It seems to indicate that libraries have not been as effective as we like in pr since Nicholson Baker’s Doublefold was released, and the general public is still under informed about what libraries can and cannot collect. For example, if there’s to be a collection of every computer book ever published just in case, why aren’t the publishers pressured to keep in archive instead of criticizing libraries for not keeping every single book? :
    • But where do we keep the stuff? (Required Field Must Be Left Blank, 1/6/08) – As always for librarians it comes down to the justifying choices based on space and budget allowances: “Maybe Cortado can make a donation to a university that’s long had a strong computer science program – so they can use those funds to process and house these items. I can’t justify keeping much of it where I work.”
    • Does Library Book Weeding Lead To Less Student Reading (The Kept-Up Academic Librarian, 1/7/08) – this actually connects weeding back to the popularity of libraries described by the Pew study.
    • There’s also good discussion of this issue on the January 9 podcast of Uncontrolled Vocabulary, which includes the following great quote:
      • “I kind of think of Interlibrary Loan as facilitating the long tail of libraries.”
  • Whaddya do with LibraryThing? (Librarian in Black, 1/3/08) – what do I do with LibraryThing? I started an account ages ago but despite good intentions haven’t done much with it since. Here a some good suggestions for libraries at least.
  • Two articles show the financial benefit of libraries:
  • Links du Jour (Random Musings from the Desert, 1/9/08) – not content in making lists of links on my own, here’s a list of another librarian’s library-related links (including one that finishes with the magnificent sentence “I’m an eating, shitting, drinking, fucking, librarian… I’m not proud, I’m real.”

Library Links of the Day for 27 December 2007

I’m on holiday break thanks to my union so I’m not thinking too much about library work right now, but here are three interesting stories I’ve culled just for you!

Library Links of the Day for 17 December 2007

  • Striving to be “container neutral” as a Librarian by Laurie (Laurie the Librarian, 11/22/2007) via Librarian in Black – “Container Neutral is defined as choosing the best format for the information source based upon needs not upon a goal to collect resources in a particular format.”
  • A Treatise on the Black Market of Holds by Sarah Houghton-Jan (Librarian in Black 12/13/07) – interesting views on patrons being able hold books at expense of browsers. News to me is that some libraries charge for hold services! I’d be so broke if Minuteman Library Network or Boston Public Library did that. I guess it’s part of the free library ethic of New England.
  • Explore your inner librarian via Tame the Web – this is just a link of a link and I’ve not had a chance to explore it but it looks worth saving for later.

Library Links of the Day for 12 December 2007

Library Link Dump

In my last post, I promised I would no longer save up lots and lots of articles and blog posts and then put them all in one post, but I have a bunch of library news I’ve saved up over the past month. So this is my last “link dump”. In the future I’ll do more frequent, more current and shorter posts like “Library Link of the Day for…”

Actually, I’d really like to take advantage of one of the social bookmarking tools out there, but I’m not sure which one is best. As I’ve noted in a previous post, I like the Posted Items feature in Facebook. What I’m looking for is something where I can save news articles and blog posts for my personal reference. I have a account but haven’t really been able to get into it. It just looks messy to me. I know there are other things out there like Digg, Reddit, and Newsvine, but I don’t know which one to try next. So if anyone has any suggestions for a social bookmarking tool that does the following, let me know:

  1. Lets me save articles and blog posts and sort them by date, topic, source, etc.
  2. Allows me to comment on these items and share them with others who may be interested in what I’m recommending to read.
  3. Is compatible with WordPress so I can put a widget in my sidebar with the most recent items listed.

With that out of the way, let’s go to the library links!

Library News & Opinion:

November 10 – “Rembrandt reaches the web” by James Fenton, The Guardian – the British Museum makes their collection of “flat” art accessible on the web (via MetaFilter).

November 11 – “Much Loved, Now Much Used” by Fran Silverman, New York Times – successful library renovation in Connecticut and Long Island to make comfortable gathering places for the community.

November 12 – “Exclusive to The Bee: Secret librarian handshake revealed!” by Brad Barker, The Modesto Bee – More from Mr. Library Man

November 13 – “Boston Public Library board ousts longtime president” by Donovan Slack, Boston Globe – in news close to home, BPL president Bernard A. Margolis is removed in what may be a political maneuver by Mayor Menino.

November 15 – “Banned User Abused Factiva” by Jeremy S. Singer-Vine, Harvard Crimson – even closer to home, a library user tests the limits of fair use in downloading articles, and loses.

November 20 – “Six Techniques to Get More from the Web than Google Will Tell You” by Margaret Locher, CIO – “Google does not equal the web” – Librarian in Black.
November 24 – “Inside the tomb of tomes” by Stuart Jeffries, The Guardian – with British Library books moving to “warehouse” facilities the writer questions the need for copyright libraries, and while he doesn’t seem convinced, he does get some interesting explanations.

November 27 – “How Libraries Might Once Again Become Technology Leaders” by Brett Bonfield on ACRLog.

November 30 – “JP Branch Library gets hot, cold and wet” by John Ruch, Jamaica Plain Gazette – another close to home story and related to the Margolis story above, there’s trouble at Boston’s branch libraries.

December 3 – “Shielding Kids from the Real World” from the Marry in Massachusetts blog – massmarrier takes on book censorship in libraries and schools.

December 7 – Finally my friend Craig states the obvious: “Libraries Rock!

Library blogs rock too. If you look to your right, you may notice a great number of new library blogs in my blogroll. I enjoy reading them and will be happy to add more if you have any recomendations.

New Library Blogs in the Blogroll:

Aaron the Librarian


Heidi Go Seek
JohnWilkin’s Blog


The Medium is the Message

mmm. . .brain
Required Field Must Not Be Left Blank

Thoughts From a Library Administrator

Travelin’ Librarian

walking paper

Library Trick or Treat

In preparation for Halloween, here’s a nice bag of links about libraries.

First, a trick: The headline of The New York Times article Libraries Shun Deals to Place Books on Web (by Katie Hafner, October 22, 2007) is very misleading. Jessamyn West at puts it best in her post Libraries Shun Deals to Place Books on Web, really?:

Quick quiz: when you read a headline like the one in the New York Times today Libraries Shun Deals to Place Books on Web do you think that the libraries involved are

a) sticking up for free access to information
b) prohibiting free access to information

If you continue to read the article you will learn that it is actually option a):

Several major research libraries have rebuffed offers from Google and Microsoft to scan their books into computer databases, saying they are put off by restrictions these companies want to place on the new digital collections.

The research libraries, including a large consortium in the Boston area, are instead signing on with the Open Content Alliance, a nonprofit effort aimed at making their materials broadly available.

The cynical side of me feels that The New York Times is supporting big business at the expense of libraries and the Open Content Alliance. As I learned at the Boston Athenaeum lecture last winter, many libraries have simply given away material to Google and others only to learn that Google doesn’t care about library ethics and open access. They want to sell a product, which is all fine and good, but you just can’t expect libraries to continue to give up their resources. I applaud the Boston Public Library and other participants in the Open Content Alliance for sticking to the ideals of librarianship and attempting to extend free access to information for all.

Now for a treat, a more positive article in the Boston Globe, Libraries Move With Times, Discover Niches (by Anna Badkhen,October 22, 2007). Traditional libraries are not so traditional and not so quiet and offer circulation of music and movies, community events, and gaming.

“We are not your grandmother’s library,” said Kimberly Lynn, president of the Massachusetts Library Association. In the era of waning readership and Internet search engines, libraries in Massachusetts and across the country are shifting their resources and expertise to areas once unthinkable. Gone are the hushed bibliothecae of yore where even an occasional irreverent clicking of a heel prompted furrowed brows of disapproval.

The modern-day library, Lynn said, is a community living room-cum-reference clearinghouse, with some digital gaming sprinkled in.

“It’s a zoo,” Lynn said. “It’s chaotic. It’s not getting quieter.”

Library circulation in Massachusetts grew by a million copies between fiscal years 2005 and 2006, according to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. But the growth is not necessarily because people are borrowing more books.

Nothing here is really new to those of us who already know that libraries rock, but it’s still good to see good press. A big part of the future (and present) of the library is social networking and there is a New OCLC Report on Social Networking called Sharing, Privacy, and Trust in Our Networked World which I haven’t read yet, but should be worth reading. Of course, there’s a lot about Web 2.0 and the future Semantic Web that we librarians still don’t understand. The Goblin in the Library takes a humorous look at the web’s future in Web X. The apparent winning definition of Web 3.0/Semantic Web is in the comments by the way:

The code will reach out and grab what it needs on its own – from any source available, regardless of format – without needing to be told to search for this or that.

The structure within the library is also evolving. I particularly liked this article from Walking Paper about the North Plains Public Library in Oregon: creating a flat library and the culture of maybe. As noted in the comments this is an egalitarian attempt to get past job descriptions and into job duties while working toward collaboration.

Instead of a Culture of No, I’m aiming to create a Culture of Maybe. You might not be surprised that employees really appreciate being able to discuss library issues without fear of judgment or other negative reactions. Here are some ideas for creating a Culture of Maybe.

Encourage collaboration. Collaboration needs to be at the core of how things are accomplished. It isn’t just a method of working on discreet projects, but rather an complete way of communicating and acting. Challenges to this include staff involvement with many aspects of library service, some of which might be outside their traditional area of interest or expertise. (At the NPPL it is very apparent that we>me. The group does a fantastic job of brainstorming and refining ideas.)

Listen to everyone. This doesn’t mean that everyone is always right, but it does mean that their ideas deserve consideration. Staff need to know that presenting ideas that don’t get put into practice is not an indication of poor performance and that they won’t be penalized in any way for doing so.

Let natural talents develop. People are happy when they can do what interests them. People do their best work when their happy.

Make people responsible. This is not about being able to blame someone if things go haywire. It is about letting people know what they’re responsible for and that their actions have a direct impact on the operation of the library. If employees see the direct impact they have, they’ll be more likely to take pride in what they’re doing. An essential part of this is providing the freedom and resources to allow people to actually do their job.

Set deadlines and stick to them. All of this free flowing conversation and discussion is great, but it must result in something. Decisions should rarely be final, however. An initial deadline and a secondary evaluation point can be set, the latter providing another opportunity for reflection, reevaluation and refinement.

This article and the model proposed was also discussed at length on the Uncontrolled Vocabulary podcast for October 3rd.

After all this discussion of change in the library, you may just want something to read. Librarian’s Place recommends Sex, Drugs, and Bombs: Confessions of a Librarian (that definitely sounds like my workday in a nutshell). If that’s too grown up for you, Random Musings from the Desert collated Children’s Books to Check Out. 3 of the 4 books appear to have librarians as the heroes, or at least the good guys. The last book is about evil librarians (yes, I can assure you that evil librarians do exist). If you want to read something that has nothing to do with librarians at all, Judge a Book by its Cover lists Titles That Took Some Thought (which are actually books with absolutely awful titles). If you click through to the post on Ironic Sans that inspired this list you will see that I actually played a part in creating it of which I’m inordinately proud.

A couple of quick library funnies

The Modesto Bee runs another installment of “Ask. Mr. Library Man.” Highlights include:

Q: Dear Library Man, since you’re a dude and a librarian, should we call you a “guybrarian”?

A: New words, often called “neologisms,” are coined all the time, and some become official dictionary words. But “guybrarian” is just embarrassing. Let it go.

Q: Yo, Librarian, are you sure “library science” is a real science?

A: Good question. As in the examples military science, political science and creation science, when the word “science” appears in the name, you know it’s a real science. “Sciences” such as chemistry and biology are subject to doubt.

Turn the Page returns after a long absence with a Library Security Advisory System. “We have a situation here,” heh, heh, heh.

What Facebook is Good For

Prompted by invites from friends and discussions of it’s usefulness in the library blogosphere I joined Facebook at the beginning of August (See previously: On Facebook Now). Due to my age, ignorance, or perhaps even my anti-social tendencies, I wasn’t sure of what exactly I use Facebook for, but I plowed ahead anyway.

Recently, Susan asked me “Have you figured out what Facebook is good for yet?” At the time I didn’t have a good answer. Visions of connecting with librarians around the world and thus using social networking to become the best librarian I can possibly be have not yet materialized. According to some Facebook is a waste of time that costs businesses millions, while others believe that Facebook may help change the world for the better. Pondering the question, I’ve come up with three things I’ve discovered that Facebook is good for.

  1. Connecting with old friends, colleagues and even a couple of strangers. I gave up on letter writing for the most part a few years ago because no one ever writes me back. Even email, which I find pretty easy, seems to be too time consuming for others. So it’s nice to have a place to check in with my buddies that I don’t see every day to just josh around and keep in touch. Otherwise I’d be stuck just seeing them at weddings and baby showers.
  2. Scrabulous. This is one of the many fun applications you can add to your Facebook profile. Most of them are fun once, but playing Scrabble with friends and strangers is addictive. On the most recent Uncontrolled Vocabulary podcast, Greg Schwartz admitted that Scrabulous is the only reason he still checks in on Facebook. That kind of makes me feel better about not networking with librarians in Peru and Botswana to save the world.
  3. Posted Items. This is my absolute favorite feature of Facebook. One of the things I like best about blogging is being able to refer back to interesting articles and blog posts I read, but not every interesting article is worth blogging about so I ended up with a surplus of draft posts in WordPress. I also would save articles from my feeds in Bloglines but that would get too cluttered. With Posted Items I can save articles, blog posts, web pages, photo albums, whatever and share them (albeit with the limited audience of my friends) automatically. There’s even a button you can add to the browser.

Here’s a selection of my favorite Posted Items on Facebook since early August:

  • August 1, 2007. New York Times. In Praise of Tap Water
    • The one thing about bottled water these days is that it is easier to come by since (clean, functional) drinking fountains seem to be less common.  Plus I’m always misplacing bottles so I have to buy bottled water and then refill it.  But honestly I’ve never bought into the bottled water being healthier concept.
  • August 2, 2007. Boston Globe. Sawed off and ugly, by Donovan Slack.
    • Seeing half a telephone pole hanging off another pole has mystified me for some time.  Now I know why.
  • August 15, 2007. WireTap Magazine. Future Civil Rights: Next Move is Ours, by Biko Baker.
    • I don’t like all of this article, but I like this: “We don’t need to believe in the leadership of one superhero; we need to believe in ourselves. No one else is going to step up and lead us but us. We are all Malcolm. We are all Martin. And until we really begin believing that, we will never be able to conquer the insurmountable odds that are up against us. I believe we can and we will. We are all makers of history; it’s time for us to start acting like it.”
  • August 30, 2007. Shaenon LiveJournal blog. The Trouble With Tribbles as Adapted by Edward Gorey.
    • Two of my favorite popular culture artifacts joined together.  And it’s hillarious.
  • September 8, 2007. Gift of Green. Top Ten Things About Massachusetts That Get a “Huh?” in Virginia.
    • This is interesting since I came to Massachusetts from Virginia albeit preceded by Connecticut.  Because of my New England childhood I’m well aware of regular coffee, radiators, the Blizzard of 78, and the adjectival use of wicked.  I never thought of raspberry lime rickeys or fluffernutters as particularly Massachusetts (the latter seems gooey and gross enough to be loved in the South).  I thought bubbler was used in the midwest and I first heard of jimmies in  Pennsylvania.  So really the three-deckers is the only thing in this list that was new to me when I came to MA.
  • September 18, 2007. Scientific American. 5 Essential Things To Do In Space, by George Musser.
    • I love space exploration.  It’s good to have a plant for its future.
  • September 18, 2007. Britannica Blog. Land, Ho! The Northwest Passage is Open For Business, by Gregory McNamee.
    • This is essentially a satirical article about global warming, but as a history major I love the concept that the Northwest Passage is now here, 400 years late.  There’s a Talk Like a Pirate Day reference as well.


One of these days a talented young athlete named Samuel Adams will emerge from college as a two-sport star and like Bo Jackson before him end up playing in Major League Baseball with Milwaukee and NFL football with New England. But this post is not about Sam Adams: Brewer-Patriot. This is about all the great librarian-bloggers out there.

The Online Education Database (OEDb) has set out to rank the Top 25 Librarian-Bloggers. Jessamyn West appears a bit nonplussed to be ranked number one. Meredith Farkas and the panel at Uncontrolled Vocabulary are among those who take issue with measures used to rank blogs. This includes doing a Google Search for “librarian blog” which is going to miss a lot of people who don’t include those words in their blog names, like myself (albeit this is the most unprofessional blog so I don’t feel I’m at all slighted compared to those librarians out there writing on library issues each and every day).

The good news is that this is a way to learn about more blogs by librarians whic is a good way for me to learn more (even if The Ecletic Librarian is right about the five types of news stories about librarians). Granted as you’ll see from my blogroll, I’m already trying to keep up with a lot of librarian-bloggers. So many people with so many good things to say, although I’ll confess that I’m usually only interested in a portion of what each of them writes. It’s nice when 3 or 4 bloggers bring up the same issue as it finally gets me to pay attention to something I may have otherwise chosen not to read about.

With that said, here’s a selection of blog posts and news articles regarding the library from the past month or so:

Friday Sillies: Unshelved, the library comic strip

Generally I select things for Friday Sillies that are new funny things I’ve discovered on the internet.  My hope is that I’m actually promoting something new as opposed to something that every online hipster saw years ago and is now old and tired.  Today, I’m promoting Unshelved, the online comic strip that’s set in a library by Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes.  This is not new, I’ve been reading it for years, and I really can’t remember a time when I didn’t have my daily fix of Unshelved. I’m prompted to mention Unshelved now because I just received their new book Read Responsibly in the mail.  Yes, the comic is online with archives going back to 2002, but I still bought the book.  It’s that good. While there’s a lot of relevant library humor in the strip, don’t be scared off if you’re not a librarian.  Just as you can read Dilbert without being an engineer or enjoy WKRP in Cincinnati without being a DJ, Unshelved is funny because of the characters that come together – often absurdly – in the public forum of the library.  You can set up an email subscription to have an Unshelved delivered to you daily or you can set up an rss feed, which is what I do.  Or every time you come here you can click on the link to Unshelved in the right-hand column, but I don’t recommend it because you might forget and miss out.  Or you may not be reading this to begin with because I average only 40 hits a day and most of those are Susan and Craig. :)

Attack of the Hipster Librarians

Recently articles in two New York City newspapers have set the library world abuzz with their coverage of hipsters who happen to be librarians. Or librarians who happen to be hipsters. Either way it seems that everyone has an opinion ranging from “it’s cool to be getting positive media attention” to”this is condescending trash!”

I’m a bit behind the times on this but as a responsible librarian-blogger I should 1) read the articles, 2) review the response, and 3) offer my own take. Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll probably just cut and paste what other people write again.

1. The Articles:

Jesella, Kara, “A Hipper Crowd of Shushers,” New York Times, July 8, 2007.

The myth prevails that librarians are becoming obsolete. “There’s Google, no one needs us,” Ms. Gentile said, mockingly, over a drink at Daddy’s.

Still, these are high-tech times. Why are people getting into this profession when libraries seem as retro as the granny glasses so many of the members of the Desk Set wear?

“Because it’s cool,” said Ms. Gentile, who works at the Brooklyn Museum.

Ms. Murphy, 29, thinks so, too. An actress who had long considered library school, Ms. Murphy finally decided to sign up after meeting several librarians – in bars.

“People I, going in, would never have expected were from the library field,” she said. “Smart, well-read, interesting, funny people, who seemed to be happy with their jobs.”

Shapiro, Gary, “For New-Look Librarians, Head to Brooklyn,” New York Sun, July 5, 2007.

How badly does the image of librarians need updating? A private school librarian, Natasha Cane, recounted how she knew someone whose mother cried when her daughter told her that she wanted to become a librarian. Ms. Cane, who was wearing a pin that read “Can I help you find what you need?” said the Desk Set could help provide an “alternative vision” for being a librarian today. Ms. Cane, who grew up in New Jersey, recalled having had “too much fun” at her local library growing up, but now her job includes shushing kids behaving as she had.Asked how she can tell the archivists from the librarians, Ms. Cane said, “Different gang colors.”

Desk Set MySpace Page

2. The Response:

Positive (July 7)

The fashion section of the New York Times has an article titled A Hipper Crowd of Shushers which, despite the title is less annoying than the usual “librarians, they’re not as lame as you think!” articles that we see about the profession. (July 9)

So, I don’t care much what you think about hipsters. I’m personally proud of the braininess of the profession and if it comes with dowdiness I’m all for it. However, a few things should be clear. The author of the article is trying to say something nice about hipsters by associating them with librarians and librarians by associating them with hipsters. Maybe you don’t share her cultural associations, but it’s not a negative piece. Everyone in the article is portrayed in a positive light. How often does that happen in anything but “puppet show a complete success!” articles about the library? The popularity of this article is likely not because people are sharing it saying “Heh, librarians are such total dorks and losers they think they’re cool and they’re not!” it’s because the framing of this story seems to resonate with people in some way.


A nice article about today’s hipster librarians in the New York Times…

Lower East Side Librarian

It’s not a bad article about how librarians are hipper than our stereotype.

Random Musings from the Desert (July 9 #1)

Random Musings from the Desert (July 9 #2)

Randoms Musings from the Desert (July 9 #3)

As the self-styled Maven of All Things Librarian Image (*laugh*snort*), I just want to add two more cents to my earlier postings. (1) Both articles were in the, shall we say, “fluffier” sections of the respective papers, and I didn’t expect anything serious at that point; (2) Sometimes just getting us out there in front of the public in a way that isn’t behind the desk is good; (3) epithets are bad; and (4) I don’t expect these articles will do much to affect the overarching image we have to Joe Q. Public. On the other hand… small steps, people, small steps, and the more of them the better – maybe J.Q.P will surprise us!

Librarian in Black

It’s great that some good PR is coming out about libraries and librarians, showing how we’re a profession of technology-gurus and research experts more than anything else…not book-stamping shush monsters.

Candy @ GSLIS


…although I take exception to the implication that we weren’t hip in the 70s.

Mixed Bag

Huffington Post (Nicole Scherer)

As a profession, I don’t think librarians care if the public thinks we’re cool: We just want the people we work for to know what exactly it is that we do. For all its emphasis on hipster librarians as another example of nerdy chic, the article’s title perpetuates that most outdated image of librarians — the Shusher — implying that while these new young professionals might be trendy and — dare I say it — sexy, they are still fussy librarians who want to keep it quiet.

The truth is that I myself am not a hipster (although I am always ready for a Dewey cocktail) and I don’t see librarianship as an interesting-enough day job to support my ‘real’ life as a filmmaker or musician or actor. As it is for many librarians, this is my chosen career. Librarians are cool, not because of how we dress, what we drink, or who we associate with. Librarians are cool because our job is cool: We protect people’s freedom to seek out and find the information they need: All service and no shushing.


Circ and Serve

Maybe 5 years is a long time, but when I graduated from library school, none of my classmates became librarians because it seemed cool. They were interested in teaching, collection development, preservation, outreach, literacy, web development, etc. Trendiness had nothing to do with it.

Why are we allowing ourselves and our profession to have one stale stereotype swapped out for a younger, “hipper” one that may be even less accurate than Marian the Librarian ever was?

Information Wants to be Free

The basic gist of the article, “A Hipper Crowd of Shushers,” (if the title wasn’t bad enough) is that these days, librarians are more than bun-wearing spinster book-lovers who hate to have their quiet and orderly library disturbed by human beings. Librarians can be hip, though still in a geeky tattoo of the federal depository library logo, trendy granny glasses and mixed drinks classified by Dewey numbers kind of way. And shockingly, librarians aren’t just women… there are “guybrarians” out there too. And we’re not just about books anymore, we’re also “about organizing and connecting people with information” (I guess I have to wonder when the profession wasn’t about these things). It felt to me like the author hadn’t been to a library in a long time, had never known a librarian personally prior to researching the article, and thought she was making an important discovery in finding that librarians are not how they’ve been portrayed in movies since the 1930s.

A Librarian’s Guide to Ettiquette

And as for trying to remake the image of the typical librarian, how about not going out of your way to tell the entire journalistic world ‘See, we’re normal. We leave our houses just like you do. Really, we do.’

The Days and Nights of Lipstick Librarian

I too feel condescended to, but not so much over the age thing as the now-codifed subtext that unless something (e.g., hobbies, fashion, professions) is adopted by blithe, dripping-with-irony and mostly white twenty-to-thirty-something hipsters, it’s not legitimate, or worse, uncool. (Actually, we’ve come to that point in our culture where once the masses deem something is uncool it immediately becomes cool. The cycling begins.)

The Ubiquitous Librarian

Oh, and Kara Jesella set librarians back about 10 years… she’s living back in the roaring 90’s when the web was new and cool. Her article about hip librarians will do more damage than good. For me, changing the stereotype is done through actions, not through fashion. At the next ALA they’ll probably have hip librarian body wash, hip librarian hair spray, hip librarian lip gloss, hip librarian temporary tattoos, a mixed cd for Next Gen Librarians, the official “hip librarian” t-shirt, and so on. No thanks. The “hip librarian” is such a ready-made cliché — it’s fitting for New York City where style is more important than substance.

Free Range Librarian

I am an aging, wrinkly thing whose idea of a wild evening is playing “Spin the Netflix” to pick a movie to watch while we fold laundry and pay bills. I dress like a square, will never get drunk enough to get a tattoo (especially one with the FDLP logo – do let me rant someday about gov docs), and avoid sleeveless dresses, as there are just not enough arm-curls in the world to defeat gravity times age.But I am cool in my subversive old-lady tech-loving the-user-is-not-broken way, and getting cooler all the time, and I count among my friends and colleagues librarians of all ages, dress codes, and evening habits. What we share is not a love of expensive mixed drinks or the ability to hang out in cliques, but a passion for the profession.

And some people responded the old fashioned way by writing to the editor:

Letters to the New York Times (July15)

3. My Take

I saw a lot of the outrage before I read the articles and now I’m kind of wondering why all the tempest in a teapot over a newspaper fluff piece. The rage against the hipster librarians is especially puzzling. I could see myself enjoying hanging out with the Desk Set as I too enjoy drinking and dancing. On the other hand if they kept insisting on calling me a “guybrarian” I may end up clenching my fists and rubbing my nose vigorously. Regardless, the amount of attention that these two articles on one group received seems to say a whole lot about the obsession with image in the librarian profession.

Tuesday at the ALA Annual Conference

Wow! Librarians certainly like to read a lot. I had 112 hits yesterday and my reports from the ALA Conference are looking pretty popular. It’s about time something gave my review of The Painted Veil a run for its money. I’m grateful for the Internet Cafe at the Washington Convention Center and apologize to all those librarians who had to wait in line while I was writing in my blog. Then again I’m impressed with how much I was able to write in such a short time. Over the next few days I’ll go back and revise the conference posts to add hyperlinks and more details as well as correct the inevitable typos.

So I’m back in Boston where it’s hot and stick. It was hot and sticky in Washington today, and the sun felt relentless on Capitol Hill where white marble is more common than trees. I began the day waiting a long time for the shuttle bus which up until this morning had be extremely efficient. There were more waits at the convention center for the bag check and to get into the Closing Session. Yet somehow I did get squeezed into a seat near the front and hear all of Garrison Keillor’s speech. It was nice to hear the warm voice so familiar from “The Writer’s Almanac” and “A Prairie Home Companion.” While Keillor’s ideas of libraries are a bit idealized and out of date, he did have a good sense of their being a quiet place where the imagination can grow, and that they are important for democracy. He particularly liked that they are places where children don’t have to perform for adults and believes the immigrant children he sees reading in today’s Minneapolis Public Library are America’s future leaders. The Library Journal has already written up a good summary of Keillor’s address.

Next I went down to the Exhibition hall to register for Library Day on the Hill.  This consisted of getting a red t-shirt and some hand outs and was all rather anticlimactic.  There was supposed to a big closing day party in The Stacks but it was just more vendors I didn’t want to talk to telling me about products I’m not interested and asking me to sign up for raffles in which I did not want to participate.  It was also somewhat depressing since a lot of vendors had packed up and left giving it a dying Main Street look.  I escaped up to the Internet Cafe to blog and otherwise find ways to kill time.

Just about noon I took a shuttle bus over to the Capitol.  I sat next to a lovely librarian from Prince George’s County, Maryland who told me all about Street Lit which is all the rage among her semi-urban patrons.  On Capitol Hill, much like Jimmy Carter, I had a crisis of confidence.  What on earth am I going to say to my Representative and Senators, especially if they had questions?  I stalled a bit in the exhibit space in the Rayburn Building and read up on my library legislative literature.  Then I wandered through the labyrinthine corridors of Capitol Hill and finally got up the gusto to enter Michael Capuano’s office.  And I talked with his legislative assistant, ever so briefly, leaving behind by contact info and sheet of library concerns.  The same pattern repeated itself later in the Russell Senate Building at John Kerry’s and Edward Kennedy’s offices.  I have to say that just boat loads of people were in the government buildings today. Most of them were in snazzy suits, but there were also other petitioners from the ACLU doing the same type of thing we were doing (they wore white & green t-shirts).  I was also touched by the wall of portraits in Kennedy’s office of big brother John.  Granted, every Irish pub in Boston has a similar display, but it there it was more meaningful.

In between visiting the House and Senate offices, I played hooky from my lobbying duties by taking a tour of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.  I took a tour lead by an exuberant volunteer.  She liked to point out how the art and architecture of the building were paeans to the European culture that Americans aspired to in the late 19th-Century when the library was built.  It’s very beautiful.  I also looked at the exhibit of American treasures because I never tire of looking at cool, old stuff.

And then I flew home.  I have a lot to read and write and think about.  Luckily I work in a library.