Wednesday, November 12, 2014

This Is How I Work

So it's come to this, I'm participating in what's basically the chain letter of blog posts. First Megan Brooks called me out on twitter, then Jessica Olin tagged me in her blog post. So, here goes. I'm Jacob Berg, and this is how I work.

Location: Washington, DC.
Current Gig: Director of Library Services at My Place of Work, a small, Masters degree granting university.
One word that best describes how you work: Width.
I'll explain. At present I am the sole full-time library staff member, and we have six part-time staff members, three of which are librarians. The other three are in MLIS programs. For the fall 2014 semester, I've been a solo librarian, solo staff member, for more than half of your average "normal" 8:30am-5:30pm, Monday-to-Friday work week. We're hiring, so help is on the way, but in the meantime, I spread myself thin. Circulation/Access Services, Reference, Instruction, Systems Administrator, Cataloging, Webmaster, and more. Thus, width, not depth.
Current Mobile Device: iPhone 4S.
Current Computer: An HP Compaq tower at work, a MacBook at home.
Current Tablet: Second generation iPad.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Why?
  • Google's suite of apps comes in very handy. We use the calendar to schedule part-time staff; g chat to keep each other up to date in real time; forms to record reference and circulation statistics; and docs to collaborate. 
  • Outlook. Our students have gmail, and for some strange reason, faculty and staff continue to use Outlook. Emails, scheduling, creating tasks,... it's useful, but I bet I could live without it.
  • Dropbox. Very useful for moving documents and other digital items around from one place to another, making it easy to work from multiple computers. 
  • Evernote. Pretty much anything I read that I think will be useful at a later date gets saved in Evernote with tags. As a librarian, I have an impressive controlled vocabulary. I also use Evernote to digitize pen-and-paper note taking at meetings, though sometimes I take notes on a phone or tablet. The paper must be yellow. Always has been, always will be. 
  • Twitter. I can't afford to go to every conference I'd like to. Library twitter is like a 24/7/365 conference. Articles, blog posts, and other useful items get shared. There's networking, there's inside jokes, there's gifs. 


What’s your workspace setup like?
I have a wall-mounted second monitor and when combined with a hospital bed table, they turn my workspace into a standing desk. I get to work just before 8:30 and sit until about 10, then I stand until lunch, and stand again after lunch.


My office is just off the main room of the library, with close proximity to the reference desk (yay) and copier/printer/scanner and fax machines (boo).
I have a white board that is very useful for planning and mapping.
Toys.


I grew up taking the 1 to the 7 to go to Mets games. That's my happy place, even if the team is a never-ending source of frustration. Plus people bring their kids in to the building, and they can play with the trains.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?
Can I take a moment here to note that I abhor the term "life hack?" It's awful.
Anyway, as soon as you find something that's useful, do something with it so that you can find it later. In library-speak, make it discoverable. Evernote does the job nicely for me. Your milage may vary.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
I use the native Notes app on my phone and tablet, as well as tasks and flags in Outlook. I get satisfaction from crossing stuff off or checking it off.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?
I have a 160GB iPod classic. I had dreams that maybe Apple would come out with a 320GB version, but instead they're killing it off. I like music, a lot.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?
I like to think that because of the wide array of roles I've had in libraries and my interest in both theory and practice, I do a good job of seeing the big picture and focusing on the details.

What do you listen to while you're at work?
Our local National Public Radio station, WAMU, in the morning, at least up until about 1pm or so, and then music after that, either via Spotify or my iPod.

What are you currently reading?
Longform journalism, because truth is stranger than fiction.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is meaningless, but I vacillate between INTJ and INFP. I think I was more introverted ten years ago than I am now.

What’s your sleep routine like?
I try to be in bed by 10:30 and I get up at 6:30am.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.
Public librarians, people with non-traditional, flexible hours; people who work from home; and fellow library directors. If that's you, please share.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I write a fair amount about the interplay between structure and agency in librarianship. I wonder if it started with my dad telling me it was better to be lucky than good. Now you know where I get my sardonic wit from. I think about luck, what it means, who has it and who doesn't, a lot.

Friday, November 7, 2014

American Libraries Live: Open Access

On Thursday, November 6th I participated in a live Google hangout put together by American Libraries Magazine on open access publishing and libraries with Emily Puckett Rodgers from the University of Michigan and Melanie Schlosser at The Ohio State University Libraries. Here's a program description.
Scholarly journals are increasingly becoming digital, experimenting with new publishing models such as Open Access (OA) and incorporating multimedia into their formats. In addition, the process of research continues to evolve because of mandates from funding agencies to publicly share research findings and data. For a candid discussion of what OA is (and isn’t), join us for “Open Access and Libraries,” the next broadcast of American Libraries Live. (Source)
The gist of what I said:

  • I like the Budapest Initiative definition of open access, "unrestricted access via the Internet to peer-reviewed scholarly research," but would add that in order for something to be open, it must be found. "Discoverability" should be a concern here. 
  • There was a question about "corruptability," shady practices involving author's fees and the like, and while those issues exist around lesser OA journals, those same issues are present in lesser paywalled journals as well. I don't think there is an "OA problem" as much as there is a "peer review problem." 
  • While open access is seen as more of an issue for academic libraries, people use public libraries for research as well, and many public library systems don't subscribe to packages of peer-reviewed journals and articles. OA is a tremendous help here. Also, people use public libraries to reskill and open educational resources (OERs), be they Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) or open textbooks, are no-cost solutions, provided public librarians are aware of these resources. 
  • Regarding educating people on open access, I again discussed how zoos and aquariums transitioned from being places to see animals to having conservation and environmental awareness embedded into their institutional fabrics. I want to see libraries do the same thing. At my place of work open access is one of the first things you see on the website, and we've worked with faculty to bring OERs into the classroom, replacing more expensive textbooks. We can, and will, do more. 

Puckett Rodgers and Schlosser had very smart, important things to say as well, and not just about what I discussed above. Below we talk about promoting resources, federal policies, integrating OA into traditional library work flows, discoverability, and more.



My caption contest submission: "The Infinity Gauntlet will be mine!"Also, about two-thirds of the way through the hangout I made a joke about not apologizing for cross-posting on listservs. See if you can find it.

There was a lively discussion on twitter using the hashtag "allive," which I've Storified. Enjoy.

Elsewhere on this site:
More Thoughts on Discovery, Plus a Poster
From Here to Discovery
Open Access: A World Without Vendors
The Price of Scholarly Materials, Politics, and Access
Another World is Possible: Particle Physics Goes Open Access
The Library as Aquarium, or The SOPA Post
There's more under the open access tag.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

On "Pitching" and What Goes Unmentioned

I'm not sure if a few recent articles constitutes a trend, but I have noticed pieces imploring librarians to get better at "pitching" ideas to their funders, be they administrators, boards, or communities, among others.



While I understand that asking for things is a skill, I, like many librarians, find it somewhat unseemly. In no small part, this is because I view libraries not just as a public good, but as being, morally good, even though there's ample evidence that as an institution, institutions, they, we, are not.

Nonetheless, in the current political and economic climate, at least in the United States, funding is often hard to come by. Public libraries face shrinking budgets while institutions of higher education are subject to the same whims if they are public, and, when taken as a whole, continue a dangerous dalliance with neoliberal policies.

These pitching articles are very much agent-based, and are within the neoliberal locus. They focus on the need to pitch, without taking into account the structure, the political and economic milieu in which libraries and library staff find themselves. Given this structure, sometimes even the best pitches can fail and fall short, and that should be noted by authors.

So if you're writing one of these articles, I want to know details. What did you pitch, to whom did you pitch it, and what strategies and sales tactics did you use? Moreover, have you pitched something at a given time and failed, only to retry it later and have it work? What changed? Again, I get that pitching is a skill we library staff should have, but I want to move past it being "good," I want to know when it works, why it works, where it works, and how it works. I want to know who has had success with it, and who hasn't. Is there something like best practices for this? Can it be replicated? Can pitching move from anecdotes to social science?

Here, I'll start:



I have some experience with pitching, having successfully advocated for a discovery layer and link resolver. It took me well over a year to from the time I started lobbying the administration, our IT department, the university president, some deans and faculty, and the business office. I first brought it up to our then-provost at a time when my place of work sought to expand enrollment by more than thirty-three percent (33%) over five years. I mentioned, and cited, the library's role in student success and retention and led people through how our community went about using the library for research, and how that would change (in short, fewer clicks, less friction) under a discovery layer and link resolver. I invited stakeholders to meet with vendors, giving our campus partners some ownership of the process. I used powerpoints. And it worked.

But sometimes it doesn't. I ask for more full-time staff in much the same way; how I pitch is how I pitch. We're still in that five-year plan. Student success and retention remain concerns. Armed with memos and data from other libraries, I presented, and continue to present, my case to the administration. And I fail. But it's not me, and I write this as much for myself as anyone else. It's because full-time staff are more expensive than a discovery layer. Much more expensive. And that's structure. And it's missing from too much of what's written in and about libraries.

There's too much agency, too much bootstrapping, too much of what is basically the respectability politics of library advocacy ("if only I had pitched better!"). And while that's important, sometimes it doesn't matter how well you pitched, because it's not up to you. And if you want to wallow in nihilism about it, I understand that impulse. I've done it. I'll do it again. But I'll also get back up, and try again.

So what works for you, dear reader? Think about not just how you pitch, but when and where as well, and please let me know, because I always want to be able to navigate structures, when possible.

Elsewhere on this site:
Libraries as Structure, Libraries as Agents: Late Capitalism Edition
Exit, Voice, and Loyalty in the Academic Library
Toward a Unifying Field Theory of Librarianship, Or Not

Friday, October 31, 2014

Slowdive, Live at the 930 Club, October 22, 2014, Washington, DC

Pic via http://dcmusicdownload.com/2014/10/24/review-slowdive-930-club-10-22-14/
Solo librarianship has taken its toll on the blog, but I did write up a review of Slowdive's concert in DC last week.
Slowdive seems, on record, to float away, barely tethered to pop and rock history, a contrast to other other shoegaze acts that make up the “big three,” My Bloody Valentine and Ride. MBV was and is rooted in the Beach Boys, 1960s girl groups, and the Brill Building sound, and Ride wouldn’t exist without the jangle of The Byrds and the mod scene of the late 60s. Slowdive only hinted at MBV’s guitar squall and Ride’s nod to influences, instead crafting slight, ethereal songs on Just for a Day, eventually becoming so ambient that the group recorded with Brian Eno, and dissolved while working on the experimental Pygmalion. 
In concert, however, the group rocked, combining the best of all worlds. “This is a pop song,” announced singer-guitarist Rachel Goswell, before starting Souvlaki’s lead track, “Alison,” and so it was, clearly indebted to The Byrds, as was concert opener, “Slowdive.” Torrential sheets of guitar–I counted over twenty-five pedals between Goswell, Neal Halstead, and Christian Saville, all of which got a workout on “Crazy For You”–filled the venue, grounded only by Simon Scott’s expert drumming, which focused on snares and hi-hats early in the set. Bassist Nick Chaplin alternated between the traditional rhythm section and threatening to blast off with the guitarists. 
Befitting the shoegaze moniker, the vocals were buried in the mix at times; one could barely hear Halstead’s flat, slightly nasal voice and Goswell’s was sometimes reduced to coos, especially when she contributed to the three-guitar attack. Saville turned the solo on “Souvlaki Space Station” into a slide guitar clinic, an alt-country, sci-fi, spaghetti western that exploded into ambient noise. Even the dream poppy “Catch the Day” and the hushed, folky “Dagger” got workouts, drenched in reverb and delay. 
Unlike MBV’s live struggles last year, Slowdive didn’t show many signs of rust. Goswell joked with Halstead throughout, and the only false start was corrected without tension. The band live-premiered the b-side “Albatross,” a post-rock song that follows the “loud-quiet-loud” formula they helped to pioneer. 
In 2013 I saw MBV live. This year I saw Slowdive. It’s your move in 2015, Ride.
Per usual, the full review is cross-posted over at Midnight to Six. Do check it out, and see how Slowdive compares to My Bloody Valentine, who reformed, toured, and recorded last year.


Elsewhere on this site, explore the music tag for more reviews.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Rockstars as Red Herrings: On Librarianship and Safe Spaces

Two librarians are being sued in a Canadian court for making statements in public that were already made in private, via informal "whisper networks."
The ‘whisper network’ – if you’ve worked in an office, you probably know it. There are two sides to that network. One is destructive and full of gossip, one is empathetic and fiercely protective. I’ll focus on the latter side and its importance in supporting those undermined in a working environment. The ‘whisper network’ creates a safe haven to discuss problems and prejudices experienced, warn others of harassers, and bolster camaraderie. (Source)
Across multiple media, Lisa Rabey and nina de jesus wrote that Joe Murphy has made women feel unsafe at library and information science conferences. Murphy's response was not to reflect and reevaluate his behavior, but to serve the two other librarians with a lawsuit, presumably in an attempt to silence them and receive compensation for reputational damages, never mind that informal networks were discussing his behavior as far back as 2010. The details on the lawsuit are here.

Murphy is a frequent presenter and sits on at least one conference selection committee. Within the last week, at least three librarians have written on the topic of "library rockstars" that, one assumes, are at least partially directed at him. These posts are well-written and thought-provoking. Please read them. Later. Much later. As the title of this blog post states, focusing on rockstars, American Library Association Emerging Leaders, Library Journal Movers & Shakers, trendspotting conference presenters, serial keynoters, and the like, is a red herring, a distraction, a derail, and a smoke screen.

The implicit argument made by these librarian authors is that upon becoming rockstars, librarians' sense of entitlement grows, which may lead to sexual harassment. One author notes that rockstars are made, a cultural construct that implicates library and information science professionals, and that we can and should unmake them. This thesis ignores the many of acts of sexual harassment, microaggressions, and other behaviors by librarians that take place every day that make our colleagues feel unsafe and unwelcome. Getting rid of rockstars will not end sexual harassment, and will not create safe spaces for our colleagues. But that argument, placing blame on rockstars, does make librarianship, writ large, feel better about itself, and make librarians feel better about themselves. It is not us, not our fellow LIS professionals that create, propagate, and reinforce these norms. No, it is rockstars that are the problem. 

It is hard to look in the mirror in general, and harder still for many librarians. We make things accessible. We serve the public. We want information to be free. And we do this among budget cuts, hiring freezes, and salaries that do not always reflect our work and our value to the communities we serve. As such, there is a tendency to think that libraries are not oppressive spaces, and that librarians are free of bias when compared to other professions. Focusing on rockstars allows us to continue to think this way.
The library is an institution, which has policies to define who is and is not a member, channels to resolve disputes, as well as feedback mechanisms. These structures intentionally legitimate some behaviors, and just as purposefully discriminate against others. 
Many libraries deliberately practice social exclusion. Exclusion may also be an unintentional consequence, along with the illusion of community expertise where there is none.* The library is not unique or alone in this. Every institution has ways to include and exclude. Whether these actions and practices are intentional or unintentional is in many ways besides the point. Libraries, and librarianship, are implicated and often strengthen them. (Source)
Joe Murphy has Lisa and nina on trial. But they're on trial every day as women, and as women in technology. One is often an outspoken advocate for mental health and overcoming the stigmas that publicly discussing mental illness brings. The other is a trans woman of color who cannot use the bathroom at her place of work without suffering some sort of aggression, micro- or otherwise. In this sense, they are not the "perfect" people to speak out against Joe Murphy's behavior because their marginalized statuses make them easier to discount and dismiss. Librarians and librarianship have created and reinforced an environment, couched in cis white heteronormativity and suppression of dialogue on mental health, that enables people like Lisa and nina to be sued for speaking up. And writing about rockstars, blaming them, rather than interrogating ourselves and supporting Lisa and nina furthers these discourses.

There are worthy and important conversations to be had about how we as librarians place people on pedestals, how we create LIS rockstars, their demographics, and how they behave. Reflect on that, yes, after we reflect on the transphobic and ableist reactions to the defendants and what we as librarians and information professionals have done to bring us to this point.


Lisa and nina are looking for people who have witnessed or experienced the behavior they write about. If you fall into either of these categories, please consider coming forward. I understand that doing so may be triggering. Please take care of yourselves if this is the case.

If you would like to ask Joe Murphy to drop his lawsuit and reflect on his behavior, and I hope you do, please sign this petition.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

I Get Letters: On the Library Job Market of the Future

At present, the most popular post I've ever written is about the woeful data both presented and collected on Masters of Library and Information Science (MLIS). Every week hundreds of people read it. I received a rather interesting email from one such reader, who has graciously allowed me to post parts of it here, along with a response.
What gets cut off after that screencap is "... support her as an independent adult."


This reader had previously examined an article in a national magazine about the "worst" Masters degrees to obtain, in which the MLIS was the least desirable. I won't link to it here.*

Here is, in part, my reply.
For some time now, the American Library Association and MLIS programs have touted a wave of retirements from baby boomer librarians. This has yet to happen, and many librarians who retire are not replaced with newer librarians. Often, the responsibilities of the retiree get spread out amongst other library staff, or the retiree is replaced by part-time or volunteer staff.

However, your daughter will not obtain an MLIS until around the year 2024. None of us knows what the job market for MLIS holders will look like then. Even now, there are many positions outside of traditional library settings that an MLIS would be useful in. Medical records, corporate archives, information architecture, to name a few.

Your daughter is 13 years old. When I was 13 I wanted to be a marine biologist. I suspect her career plans will change as she continues her intellectual awakening and studies. Anything that you can do to encourage her intellectual development, including pursuing a career in information sciences, is a good thing in my book.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) may be of some help here. Behold the Occupational Handbook Outlook for both librarians


and archivists, curators, and museum staff.


Indeed, the BLS itself parrots the ALA and MLIS program line, writing "Later in the decade, prospects should be better, as older library workers retire and population growth generates openings." (Source)

Based on Library Journal's 2013 data, over 6,100 people graduated from ALA-accredited MLIS programs in 2012 (source is table 3), so the addition of 14,300 jobs in libraries, archives, and museums by 2022 will be dwarfed by just a few years of additional graduations from Library and Information Science Programs. But again, predicting the job market in 2025, or 2022 is tricky. In the meantime get creative; vote for government officials who will support the information professions, try to change the hearts and minds of those who don't or won't; if you have money to spare, give it to EveryLibrary, our profession's political action committee; and always be advocating.


* According to this magazine's ranking one year later, an MLIS is now "only" the third-worst Masters degree to obtain, so progress?



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Ada Initiative Needs Your Help

Hi, I'm Jake, a cis het white male librarian. You may remember me from such posts as
Well, I'm back. Why?

Because of this:

Starting today, September 10th, 2014, and for the next five days, a group of librarians and information professionals will match donations to the Ada Initiative, up to $5,120, provided one gives via this link.

This group of LIS professionals is made up of Chris Bourg, Mark Matienzo, Bess Sadler, and Andromeda Yelton. Please thank them, then empty their wallets.

Here's what the Ada Initiative does.
The Ada Initiative supports women in open technology and culture. Stuff we do:
Anti-harassment policies used by hundreds of conferences
Ally skills for men so women don't have to fight sexism alone
Feminist conferences for women to share lessons learned and support each other
Training women to fight Impostor Syndrome and stay involved in open tech/culture (source)
Does the fight against sexism interest you?

If you're like me, you live on the Internet, and probably see a lot of disgusting, bigoted behavior rooted in misogyny. To wit:

and this. And this.

Trolls probably aren't going to go away, but the Ada Intiative helps eliminate and mitigate the effects of that behavior. It's a worthy cause.

You may have also noticed similar behaviors at conferences, necessitating the need for Codes of Conduct, and training. Well, the Ada Initiative does this, too, so please give early, and give often. Conference codes of conduct don't just help women, they protect other marginalized people from harassment. I would very much like to see my friends and colleagues enjoy conferences. I think conferences are improved by representative and substantive diversity and should be safe spaces. More importantly, I would like all of us to not deny each other's humanity.

Open technology and culture are for everybody. Conferences are for everybody. The Internet is for everybody. Video games are for everybody. Humanity is for everybody.

Please thank these information professionals for matching donations, because as one intrepid tweeter puts it:

No cookies, please. I have enough to eat. Just money, time, effort, and behavior.

Donate to the Ada Initiative

That link again: https://supportada.org/?campaign=libraries. It may get you a sweet sticker, too.


Thank you.