Thursday, September 30, 2010

Retail Librarianship

I find myself, quite suddenly, in a position of some authority where I work, which includes hiring library staff (no, we're not hiring now, unless you want to be director, and you don't, trust me). While I'm interested in where you got your MLS, what your favorite class was, previous library experience, and other such things, I find myself coming back to one simple question: have you ever worked in retail or a customer service position?
Look, don't get me wrong, I care about the degree that put you tens of thousands of dollars in debt, but I'm more interested in if you folded sweaters at the Gap one summer. Why? Because regardless of where you work in a library, you're going to interact with other people. Even the Technical Service gnomes. And other people can be jerks. You probably knew that. Handling those jerks, being diplomatic about it, takes a certain kind of skill. It's a lot easier for me to teach you how to use the ILS than it is to teach you that.
So I understand if you want to hide your sordid retail experience on a resume or CV, but for an in-person interview, I want to hear all about it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Beer! A Salute to Harpoon's 100 Barrel Series

If you've been following craft beer news lately, a few trends stand out. You may have noticed more 22 oz. bottles (sometimes called "bombers") for sale at your local beer shop, and you may have noticed that those bottles tend to contain beer with a higher than average alcohol content, often between 7% to 11% alcohol by volume (ABV), compared to 3% to 5.5% ABV from the larger breweries such as Miller.* The high ABV beers pose something of a problem if you work mornings as 22 oz. of a 9% beer can add up. You could share with a friend or family member, or do what I do: cap the bottle with a stop (wine stops are less effective than plastic ones, but will do in a pinch) and come back to it the next day.
The good folks at Harpoon, however, have come up with something else: good beers in bombers with more manageable ABVs under the 100 Barrel Series. Harpoon, I salute you! In particular, I salute the Single Hop ESB, which features, for the first time in a commercially brewed beer, the Delta hop, a hybrid of the British Fuggle and the American Cascade. For a good example of each of these hops, I suggest Shipyard IPA for the Fuggle and Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale for the Cascade. Crossing the two, at least as expressed in the ESB, it appears that the Fuggle won out, as the mouthfeel is a bit earthy, lacking the citrus tang of Cascade. No shame in that, and not a surprise given that the Cascade is itself a Fuggle crossed with an obscure Russian hop. Clocking in at 5.8% ABV, the ESB comes as close to a session beer as you'll find in a bomber, which means you can drink the whole thing in a sitting and not regret it the next morning. In fact, a great many 100 Barrel Series beers clock in at under 7%.
This bottle happens to be the maltiest beer in my house, so I paired it with bratwurst and braised cabbage, treating it like a Marzen. It worked quite nicely. Well done, Harpoon!

* Some may point out that Heineken and malt liquors have come in bombers for some time, but I'm not talking about those, at least not now.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Moneyball and Libraries

Moneyball, soon to be a major motion picture, wasn't written by a computer, like some people think. Michael Lewis, writing in the New York Times Magazine, studied the operations of the Oakland A's baseball team, and it's general manager (GM), Billy Beane, in particular. The A's couldn't, and can't, financially compete with the Yankees, getting outbid for free agents or scouting international players, but Beane figured out that some skills were underpriced. He then drafted and signed players who had those skills.* The result: Beane took over as GM in 1998 and the team had winning records from 1999-2006, making the playoffs in five of those seasons. Why haven't the A's made the post-season since 2006? Other teams caught on and began to value the same skills as Beane. Case in point, the aforementioned Rays. In sum, Beane exploited market inefficiencies to successfully run his team.

Libraries aren't baseball teams, but if they were, mine couldn't compete with others in the area. We don't have the resources. And this is where moneyball comes in. There are market inefficiencies for libraries, that librarians and library staff should be exploiting them. A couple stand out.
First, we are surrounded by a wealth of data about how libraries are used, how many books get checked out and if a run of call numbers is particularly popular, when the building sees the most foot traffic, which databases see the most use,... I could go on. All of these are measurable, and decisions on resource allocation should be data-driven. Let's go out there and collect that data. It's free, and under-utilized.

Second, and also free, librarians should be educating patrons (and faculty and students, in that order, if you work in an academic library) about the free scholarly resources that exist online. In particular, I'm thinking of the Directory of Open Access Journals. Compared to the cost of databases that aggregate journals and their articles, open access can't be beat on price. They don't cost libraries a thing. They are priced inefficiently, but never mind that; get those DOAJ titles into your catalog, or link to it from your library's homepage, or promote it on a blog, or tweet it, or all of the above.

That's two to start with, but I'm sure there are more out there. Let's start a discussion, shall we?

* For those interested in baseball, the underpriced skills mentioned above were the ability to get on base (as opposed to the ability to hit for high average), defensive excellence (which also plays a role in the recent success of the Tampa Bay Rays), drafting pitchers with college experience, and utilizing statistics called sabermetrics.
And yeah, I'm going to link to Wikipedia. I vetted both those entries and they look fine to me.

A Manifesto

Libraries and beer. Beer and libraries. That's what most of this blog will be about, and I'll tag the posts appropriately.
I'm an academic librarian in Washington, DC, which happens to be a great city for drinking beer.
I'm married, have a kid, two dogs, and a house. All of those things may make an occasional appearance here, or not.