Thursday, February 23, 2006

Home on the range

Mom in front of my new place

My trip was really productive. The drive from Denver to Laramie on Wednesday evening was horrific. I know how to drive in snow, even though we don't get much of it in Seattle. That doesn't mean I relish completely iced over roads with drifting snow and so much wind that there's about two feet of visibility. I'm used to heavy, wet snow that falls like rain but not that powdery, dry stuff that swirls in the wind and sticks to the windshield and ices it over. I was also not prepared for interstate highways with no lights and very little signage. I was white-knuckling it for 150 miles.

Once I got to Laramie, I found a place right away. I was looking for something near enough to campus to walk to work most days, but ended up choosing a duplex in West Laramie. I'll have to drive, but I get a two car garage and it's a quiet, non-studenty street. The bonus is not having to deal with apartment living.

I also spent some time on campus getting paperwork started, checking in with my supervisor, and meeting colleagues who weren't on campus when I interviewed in December. Check out my new office. I'm in love with the gold powder coated desk and bookcases. So retro cute.

Posing in my new office

Now that I've been back there and started arranging my living and work spaces, I feel more ready to move. I don't leave for a month, but I'm sure the time will go by quickly. The moving coordinator has been out to give me a quote and the shipment's all scheduled. My sister-in-law will fly out me and stay for a week to help get me settled. It will be fun to show her around and spend some time with her before starting work.

In the meantime, I'm newly involved with a blogging project and will post more details soon.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


I haven't been online at home much over the past few days. The nice weather kept me outside and playing with the dogs. I needed to soak up some sunshine because I'm heading to Wyoming on Wednesday to find an apartment. I thought it was cold tonight when I got off work at 9:00pm and had to scrape my windows. That's no match for my new town, which will snow on Wednesday and have temps of 0-20 degrees, just in time for my arrival. Welcome to 7200 feet!

We're having a party at work tomorrow. It's for the students, which is always fun. I spent much of my day today putting the finishing touches on questions for the trivia contest, making a staff recommendations display, and making posters and other signage. That was the fun part. The slightly less fun parts included unjamming printers, picking up candy wrappers and empty coffee cups, collecting at least two reams worth of unclaimed printouts, and trying to explain why we can't "print the whole internet" so the government can't see what the patron is searching for. It was a pretty easy day.

Pictures of my new home are coming soon!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

librarian "shortage"

CNN just published another article about labor shortages and includes librarians as one of the top five unpopular jobs. They cite no real data to support the idea of a shortage, besides this, "The American Library Association Website quotes statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau indicating that more than one-quarter of all librarians will reach the age of 65 by 2009." (Here's the original source from ALA.) I think most people would agree that many librarians--many people in general--don't want to or can't afford to retire at 65. For an excellent response to the "shortage" rhetoric, see "The Entry Level Gap," (Holt and Strock, 2005), if you haven't already.

The shortage debate gets pretty heated. The NexGen list is just one place people are talking about it. While I don't agree that there will be an unmanageable wave of retirements in the next couple of years, I also think that we need to continue to recruit new librarians. Say what? Hear me out. I'm from Seattle, home to the UW Information School and many, many unemployed and underemployed librarians. I imagine the situation is similar in other cities hosting MLIS/MLS programs. This will not change. Libraries of all types in the Pacific Northwest know they can be choosy about who they hire, and it's not uncommon for jobs, especially in academic libraries, to require lots of experience that new grads usually don't have. This won't change.

I knew that I needed to look out of state if I wanted a stable, permanent reference/instruction position. It's possible to cobble together enough adjunct hours to make a living--I'm doing it now and have friends who will continue to do so because they don't want to move--but that's not the lifestyle I wanted. I'm not saying it was easy to get my job, but my applications generated far more interest out of state than they did around here. It's supply and demand, I'm afraid. Slowly but surely, my MLIS classmates who want to work in libraries are finding jobs out of state. Jobs are competative, but they're out there. In some geographic areas, there is a genuine need for more librarians.

Why do I think we need to continue recruitment? I can think of several reasons. First, we can't let the profession stagnate. We need new people and new ideas continually cycling into libraries and other information centers. We can't just stop training new librarians for a while and then start back up later. Universities don't put graduate programs on hiatus; once they're closed, they're usually gone for good. Professors would be out of work and research in the field would slow, and in some areas, might even cease.

I'm leaving out some reasons for the sake of brevity, and to get to my most important reason. For all our good intentions, our profession is not nearly as diverse as the communities we serve. It sounds trite, but it's true--we need to do a better job of showing people--especially kids--what we do so a wider cross-section of people will consider librarianship as a career.


I was going to post about Norman D. Stevens' article in the January 2006 issue of College & Research Libraries, but Joy Weese Moll beat me to it. If you have the chance, check out the article. It kind of reminded me of a science fiction story. No paper allowed! What will be the punishment for smuggled post-its?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Halo: 0, Clam Chowder: 1

I had a rough night and day. The dogs were awesome little companions, spending most of the day in bed with me and very politely walking on leash when during backyard "bathroom" breaks. My dogs are pretty high-energy and need lots of outside time, so I thought missing their daily visit to the dog park was going to leave me with wild beasts. Instead, they picked up on my mood and cuddled up so nicely.

So, work at the community colleges is going well. I'm splitting my time between two campuses in the same system and I like experiencing differences between them. One library is quite a bit busier than the other, but I'm getting enough small projects to keep me busy when the desk is slow. In fact, I might have too many things on my plate. Turns out I get to teach another class on Thursday, which is cool.

I don't normally go all linky, but spending the day in bed with the laptop meant I read even more news than usual. Some assorted library-related thoughts:

First, the bad news. The Tacoma Public Library, which is undergoing a badly needed $1.5 million renovation, is also reorganizing staff and taking reference librarians out of most branches. They plan to offer more phone, IM, and video conferencing reference, but I wonder how that will go over with the public. I wonder if this is a local trend. King County Library System is already "clustering" their library staff.

I'm happy to read that UNO has been open for a week now, as planned. I don't think I'm headed to ALA National in New Orleans this year, but if I do I will definitely look up the UNO librarians who I met during my interview.

I read about this a week or so ago, but Seattle Public Library is planning to offer free WiFi. KCLS has had it for a while, and I've used it many times.

In other local library news, the Lynnwood and Mukilteo branches of the Sno-Isle Libraries have implemented "roving reference." This is one of my favorite low-tech reference strategies and I try to do it when I can, especially when all the computers are in use but nobody's asking for help.

Lastly, did any of you see the news that a teen was banned from a library in Columbus, OH so he apparently intentionally ran a car into the building and injured a librarian. Yikes.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

more library stuff

Check out the Straight Dope rundown of the Dewey Decimal System. They also describe the Library of Congress system in a pretty digestable piece that I think I'll bookmark to use with students.

I'm working for the vending machine

So, like most people, I love vending machines. I especially love machines that vend unusual stuff. My new obsession, introduced to me by Melanie and Ed, is Art-O-Mat, old cigarette vending machines rehabbed and filled with tiny art. There's one in Tacoma, which is handy now that I'm working nearby. Check it out if you can.

Anyway, now the public libraries in Stockholm are vending books for people to read on the train. Awesome! I hope this trend takes off here in the States. How cool would it be to have these machines in coffee shops and at bus stops? This article from the Svenska Dagbladet(in Swedish) has pictures of the Bokomaten, if you're interested.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

on teaching

Tonight, for the first time in months, I got to teach a class. At first I was dreading it, because it was a last-minute surprise, the instructor wasn’t going to be there, and I only had the sketchiest of ideas about the assignment the students needed to work on. It took probably thirty seconds from the time the class began for me to get really into it. It was an English comp class, and the students were paired up to write pro/con position papers on a topic of their choice. Setting aside the fact that I think pro/con papers do a disservice to first-year college students by promoting the idea that there are always two, and exactly two sides to every issue, I so love this kind of workshop. It’s fun to introduce the topics collection to students. The resources are easy to use and packed with good information. Even the students who struggle with research can find some measure of success pretty quickly.

I think success is the hook we need to “sell” the library to students. No amount of technology, coffee carts, game nights, or fancy buildings can do that if students don’t believe they can understand the library. That’s why I try to start a class with something kind of simple but cool and move to the hands-on activities as fast as I can. The coolest part of my job is seeing students do the research and start to figure out that they actually can handle it.

It doesn’t hurt that tonight’s class was filled with students ready to learn, too. They were more than ready to learn; they were hungry. Once they got talking about their topics, I could see the studied nonchalance melt away and be replaced with enthusiasm and genuine excitement about giving their own opinions. I guess that’s the benefit of position papers. How often do we ask undergrads what they think? I feel like we stress scholarly, scholarly, scholarly all the time, but we forget to tell students that they’re scholars too. The best librarians I know have all talked about what students can bring to an instruction session or reference interaction. I’ve certainly relied on a student’s expertise in subjects I’m not super confident with as I help him or her negotiate sources. It’s usually more fun when I don’t know as much about the topic or subject as a student and it really shows him or her that, as a librarian, I might be and expert on information, but they can be the subject expert.

I guess I’m a big nerd and get overly excited about this stuff, but teaching just gets me all riled up. It’s always such a high. The best complement I’ve ever received from students is that they were able to do something on their own that they first learned from me. I can’t take credit for their success, but it is really satisfying to realize that I helped somebody become more confident in his or her own abilities. That’s the coolest feeling.