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: It may get you a sweet sticker, too.

Thank you.

Monday, August 25, 2014

On Librarianship, Community Relations, and Temporality

At the International Federation of Library Associations World Library and Information Congress, this slide caught my eye.
I responded with
I understand the teleology behind Lor's graphic here. Librarianship is a critical profession, and I believe that information and knowledge can be emancipatory. However, when I'm giving directions to the restroom, or showing someone how to navigate our sadistic printing process, my end goals are not social justice.

To that end, it may be useful to think of Lor's terms as temporal variables, as seen below.

And another time, snapshot 3, may look different. In a meeting with campus stakeholders, for example, I would continue to use the language of social justice, as it fits with the mission of my place of work, but I would also use more "return on investment," and talk about our service to and participation in our community, perhaps labeled "clientele" here. That is, at different times, in different situations, we relate to our communities differently, and we should be strategic about those relations.

Lor's presentation was based off a paper, which is available here as a pdf. His discussion of the graphic above starts on page 6, and is based off his experiences with libraries in South Africa. It's an interesting read.

Friday, August 15, 2014

We're Hiring!

Our reference librarian is leaving, and it feels kind of like losing a limb. What I'd like to do is make a smooth transition from something like this

To this

though hopefully with a happier ending.

Indeed, the title of Reference Librarian doesn't fully capture what this position might entail. At present, I function as something like Head of State for the library, representing it outside the building, to our community, to consortiums, and the like, whereas the reference librarian is the Head of Government, managing much of what happens in the physical library with regards to reference and access services, including our library instruction and information literacy efforts, and our admittedly meager interlibrary loan program. I've taught our outgoing reference librarian how to copy catalog, and I'm happy to do the same for any and all new hires.

If you have a sense of humor, curiosity, a desire to learn and experiment, and a commitment to higher education and justice for all (see what I did there?), well, then this job might be for you.

Actual webpage via HigherEdJobs.

In addition, we're also hiring part-time staff, either at the librarian level, or the intern one, aimed at graduate students in Masters of Library and Information Science programs. Both are paid. Details on this position, these positions, here.

A few notes on hiring:
  • I don't know the salary range for the position of Reference Librarian, and I understand if this sets off all kinds of red flags for you. Our Human Resources department keeps me in the dark on such things, which is both a blessing and a curse. It will be enough to live on in DC, which isn't cheap. It probably won't be enough to allow you to buy a house without other sources of income.
  • My place of work is a predominantly minority institution (PMI), as classified by the Department of Education, and we are an Equal Opportunity Employer. We take both of these very seriously. Representation is important. 
  • If a job is posted and you apply for it six hours later, that sets of all kinds of red flags for hiring managers. It tells us that you may have a canned cover letter ready to go and not given much thought to who we are, what we do, and how you, the applicant, might fit in. Like buying a gun, give it twenty-four hours. Think it over.

Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing, and good luck.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Good Beer on the Vegas Strip

Nobody goes to Las Vegas for craft beer; it's not a destination the way that Portland (both of them), San Diego, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Burlington, Asheville, Grand Rapids, and a handful of other cities are. However, limiting ourselves to the southern end of the Strip, South Las Vegas Boulevard, there's good beer to be had.

Thanks to the magic of in-flight wifi and twitter, a beer crawl was organized around this part of town. And when I landed, Vegas was ready.
Our southern-most bar was our starting point, Pour 24 at the New York, New York Casino. It's right off the lobby, open to some shops and restaurants and there's a good view of the hilariously fake New York City and the casino floor below. They were pouring Ballast Point's hoppy porter, Black Marlin, for $5 per pint, a very good deal.

Two days later I got to Michael Mina's Pub 1842 in the MGM Grand, which served draft beer in frosted mugs (cold masks taste, which is why Coors Light does what it does on the cans), so I opted for a can of Big Sky Moose Drool out of Montana. I wish I had brought a six-pack of this excellent brown ale home. But back to the beer crawl.
That beertail was at The Pub at Monte Carlo, which had well over one-hundred draft lines. One of those lines poured Stone's Enjoy By 4-20-14, an India Pale Ale with the serve-by date right in the name. It was June 29th. When I asked a bartender what was fresh, he just shrugged. In sum, that's too many taps. Take a look at this pdf beer list. They did have Deschutes Black Butte Porter on tap, though.

Our final stop was Todd English P.U.B. (Public Urban Bar) in City Center, near Aria. It was probably the most expensive of the bars we went to, but also had the best deals during its two happy hours, half price drafts, as well as between two and four casks at a time. I'd probably be most likely to return here, especially between 3-6pm or 10-midnight for happy hour, or to Pub 1842.
I'll add that Central in the lobby of Caesar's Palace also had a good selection, and like Pub 1842, had a few barrel-aged cocktails.

In terms of local beer in Vegas, I had a solid cream ale from Pub Dog, and a decent Russian Imperial Stout from Joseph James and an IPA from Tenaya Creek. But again, nobody goes to Vegas for the beer, and given that it was well over one hundred degrees (and I assume that will be the case until October), that's okay. I think the beer I had the most while I was there was Miller Lite, passing up multiple West Coast IPAs for tallboys of macro lager on Saturday night.

When it's 101 degrees at 9:15pm, this happens.
Photo by Daniel Ransom.
Speaking of beer, here's yet another interview with Brian Strumke of Stillwater Ales over at It seems like I do one of these just about once a year. We talked about what it means to remix a beer, and what he's got planned for the rest of the year and beyond. A sample:
DCBeer: How is the Omnipollo beer made? When you remix a song, you can sample it, take snippets of the original and move it to the remix track. With brewing, it's a bit different, right? You're starting from scratch with the same or similar ingredients, but not actually using the beer, correct?
Brian Strumke: When remixing a beer we are not using the other beer (well, not yet) but the elements are obtainable such as types of malt or hops... but it's more of a cerebral breakdown... working off the concept of the beer and the elements that signify it as a unique product. Omnipollo decided to ramp up the body and ABV a bit on Premium and then include a lovely bright fruity hop profile that definitely speaks out the the hop heads out there.
He's an interesting fellow. Do check it out. Cheers.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The (Second) Draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Survey Feedback

Today is the last day to give feedback, in survey form, on the revised draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, available here.

Here is how I filled out the survey. Note what they are asking for feedback on, and what they are not.

1. How satisfied are you with the overall Framework?

I remain concerned about the use of the term "metaliteracy," indistinguishable from "information literacy," as I see it, and the use of threshold concepts generated by a Delphi study (see Lane Wilkinson's excellent post on this), but otherwise I like the flexibility, the way it encourages collaboration with faculty and administration, and its potential to help make information literacy a more integrated part of academic communities. I like the definition of "information literacy."

2. If you have followed the development of the Framework through the previous draft, please tell us what changes you find most helpful.

The addition of an FAQ and supporting documents further flesh out the Framework. I also find the knowledge practices and dispositions useful.

3. Does the “Suggestions on How to Use the Information Literacy Framework” section, in conjunction with the Frames, help you to engage other campus stakeholders in conversation?

I hoped this part of the Framework would detail some strategies for engaging faculty and campus administration in a variety of college and university settings, but maybe that is better suited for a supporting document, which I look forward to reading. The more granular the task force gets with this, in more settings, the better implementations will be.

4. How might the Framework affect the way you work with students?

This depends in large part on how we in the library work with faculty. Will we be able to transition from one-shot library instruction sessions to something more expansive, across the curricula? That will be key. And because of how we're staffed, a lot of information literacy instruction will fall to faculty. Do they want to do that? Do we librarians and library staff want them to?

5. What one thing do you most want the Task Force members to know about the draft Framework?

Please keep being transparent and open-minded, please do listen to critiques of metaliteracy and the threshold concepts, which I believe make up a plurality of the criticism so far.

6. Please share any additional information that would help us in understanding your perspective on the proposed Framework.

My criticism is constructive, comes from a desire to make us all the best librarians, and educators, we can be.

My thoughts on the Framework thus far:

The (Second) Draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: My Thoughts
Ethics, Copyright, and Information Literacy, Letters to a Young Librarian
The Draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Some Initial Thoughts
The Draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Survey Feedback