Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Time for Lunch

"Time for Lunch," by Finn Frode 

I've been having lunch about once a month with a few local public library administrators. It started out just me and the director of my city's public library, then we ran into the county librarian at that restaurant another time, and now the assistant director of my city's public library is coming along as well.

There are a number of reasons why I'm excited about this:
  • It's a simple but effective way for me to contribute to bettering the town-gown relationship - which is one of our stated goals in my college's recent strategic plan. (This is common in higher ed, but is especially important for small schools like mine.) 
  • Our jobs are much more similar than you'd think. I work to further integrate information literacy into the curriculum while they work to make sure storytime has some educational substance and not just flash. I work with my school's administrators to best use our financial resources, and they work with city/county/state officials. Heck, our staffs even overlap (one of my library associates also works at the county library and another also works at the city library).
  • We also have a fair amount of overlap in the constituencies we serve. Set aside the fact that we're in the same consortium, there's also the fact that we have plenty of students who grew up in the local area. Add to that how many of our faculty live in this county and it's clear we have overlapping missions as well.

I don't know if these kinds of relationships are possible in bigger cities and/or at bigger schools, but it's got to be worth a look. We're starting to talk about small scale partnership plans, too. It's nice to think that we're doing something substantive as we chat over food at the local Indian restaurant, but if nothing else: it's nice to have conversations with peers who understand what my job is like.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Just for Fun: Would You Like to Play A Game?

I know the title of this post could lead you to think I wrote about War Games this month. It's true that would be a worthy post, if for no other reason than to goggle at how young Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy were in that movie. But in this case I really *am* asking you if you'd like to play a game, because I have fallen deeply and madly in love with independent board games.

The games listed here aren't in any particular order (except I left my favorite for last), nor is this list an exhaustive representation of games I've loved and played. To be honest, this is more a way to flush out other board game lovers among my readers and followers than anything else.

photo borrowed from the successful Kickstarter campaign

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I attended Unpub 4 - an annual unpublished games festival. While I was there, I got to meet Daniel Solis who makes great board and card games. I haven't played all of his games yet, which makes me feel a bit of a slacker since he's since become a friend, but of the ones I've played thus far, Belle of the Ball is my favorite. The point of the game is to throw a better party than the other players, and there are things you can do to both make your party better and to muck up other parties. It has elements of luck (card draw) as well as strategy, which is a winning - pun intended - combination in my mind. Also, the art, by Jacqui Davis, is perfectly suited to the theme.


picture borrowed from the publisher's website

Imagine if the Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey were turned into a storytelling card game, and you'll have a good idea of what Gloom is like. Each player has a family and the point of the game is to make your family miserable and then eventually kill them off. Along the way you can make your opponents' families happy as well. The fun of this game isn't necessarily in the winning or the losing, however. The best part is the stories you tell to make the cards you play make sense. Did your opponent just give a member of their family a likely terminal disease? Well, if you have the right cards, you can tell a lovely tale of a miraculous cure culminating in marriage to the doctor who cured them. Of course, it's possible that your opponent will in turn have that same doctor fail to show up at the church. To be honest, this is a mild story compared to some I've told and/or heard when playing this game.

Martin Fivebones supervises a game of Takenoko between me and my boyfriend.

Pretend you're a gardener for the Emperor. Sweet gig, right? But then the Emperor is given a giant panda who is allowed to wander around the gardens, eating whatever bamboo he wants to eat. You're still expected to tend and expand the garden, but you can't harm the panda. That's the perhaps overly twee premise of my favorite game, Takenoko. The learning curve on this game is pretty steep, something that is true of a lot of independent board games I've played, but after that first game it's all good. You have quests to fulfill, such as growing a bunch of pink bamboo to a certain height or getting the panda to eat one pink and one green and one yellow section of bamboo, and the first person to complete enough quests also gets honored by the Emperor. Yes, it's hella complicated. Yes, it's worth learning because there is something so satisfying about it - win or lose.

How about you? Do you like board games? Which are your favorites?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Information Today Interview

I was one of three people interviewed for an article on Information Today, Inc. Take a look!

The whole thing makes me feel very cool (see below for how cool), so thanks to Brandi Scardilli for approaching me about it.



Thursday, January 28, 2016

Interview Post: Carolyn Ciesla


Biographical

Name?

Carolyn Henley Ciesla

Current job?

Instructional Services Librarian and Associate Professor at a smallish (2,900 FTE) community college in the south Chicago suburbs.

How long have you been in the field?

I received my MLIS in 2010 but have been working the library field since 2008. I jumped from public to academic libraryland in 2013.

How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?

I have my own office!!! (Extra exclamation points because this was a first for me.) I try to keep it tidy, but by the end of the semester I’m lucky if I can see the actual surface of my desk. I also want my office to represent me, so I have a GIANT bulletin board with lots of collected memorabilia and silly items, as well as my fandom shelf.

How do you organize your days?
My teaching schedule is getting heavier, so between that and time at the reference desk – and MEETINGS! – I don’t have a lot of time to just sit and work. As a result, I have to be strict with my days if I want to get anything done. Mornings are usually when I try to work on brain-heavy activities, like writing or course/lesson planning. Afternoons are for catching up on professional reading and answering emails.

What do you spend most of your time doing?
I feel like I spend the most amount of time scrambling to finish something because I either put it off or had other things I had to finish first. I’d like to get away from the “headless chicken” model of working.

What is a typical day like for you?
Part of why I love being a librarian is that no two days are exactly the same. They usually involve some combination of: teaching, meeting with students, meeting with other faculty, meeting with my dean, sitting at the reference desk, helping someone (or several someones) print something, checking my email, checking my email again, opening too many tabs and never being able to read everything, did I mention checking my email?, oh, and internally panicking about all the things.

What are you reading right now?
For work: I have, like, seven articles right now on my desk, some for classes and some for me, plus several back issues of C&RL News. For pleasure: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. It’s a story about WWII told from several converging points of view, and it’s gorgeous and heartbreaking. I’m taking a departure from my usual horror/suspense/dystopia titles.

What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
Here’s the thing: I’m sure I’ve received wonderful advice. It’s just… I can’t remember any of it. (Future advice givers: don’t bother with me. I won’t remember it.) Let’s just all assume it was moving and inspirational and motivating.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
Telling people to walk around the vomit.

Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?
It changes regularly but is always something fun to say. Right now, it’s flibbertigibbet.

What is your least favorite word?
Pus.

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
Movie trailer editor.

What profession would you never want to attempt?
Podiatrist. Dentist. I can’t deal with other people’s feet or mouths.

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
Teleportation. I hate flying.

What are you most proud of in your career?
The little moments when I’m teaching or talking to a student and it clicks. Then they give me a high five.

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
I am an organizational mess, and I’m in charge of several schedules. I’ve double-booked classrooms, I’ve neglected to turn in important forms, and I’ve forgotten to schedule coverage for missed shifts. It’s taught me to write everything down, and take time to complete each task before moving on to another.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Napping. Driving. (Ha, I typed drinking instead of driving. Sure, that too.) Hanging out with my husband and daughter.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Amy Watson


Carolyn is on Twitter as @papersquared. This her second post for LtaYL. The first was "All In: Getting the Most Out of the ACRL Immersion Program."

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Dressing for Interviews: An Extended Answer



I've been an on-again-off-again contributor to the "Further Questions" series on Hiring Librarians. The "off-again" part is because sometimes I don't have any experience from which to answer or I'm just too busy, so I'm glad I had a moment when the question that was published yesterday showed up in my email.

The question:
"Which outfit is most appropriate to wear to an interview with your organization? Please pick one for women and one for men, and feel free to provide commentary as to why you chose one over the others (or share how you might change an outfit). Bonus question: Can you share any funny stories about horrifying interview outfits?" (There are options from which respondents chose at that link.)
My answer:
"Since gender isn't a binary, I say you wear whatever you feel is appropriate to the level for which you're applying. In general, dress just a little bit nicer than you think you would dress if you got the job. If you feel unsure, check with a friend/contact who already has a job in the kind of library where you are interviewing. Don't know anyone? Feel free to reach out to me and I'll get you in touch with someone who can help."
I feel the need to expand upon what I wrote there, partially because I'm still angry at the assumption of gender as a binary and partially because of the great discussion that happened on Twitter and other places after that Hiring Librarians post was published.

Here are some things that I know are true:
  • I've talked before about my privilege (or lack thereof), but it's important to note that since I'm caucasian and mostly cisgendered I can bend or even break some of the so called interview outfit fashion rules with relative impunity. YMMV.
  • Performance of gender and performance of race factor into this in a big way.
  • I already have a job in a library, so in some ways it's easy for me to talk.
  • But I am also fat, and fat prejudice is a problem.

Having explained all that, I still stand by my answer. Wear what feels appropriate. Wear an outfit that makes you feel confident but that is also comfortable. I suggest you avoid high heels unless you are super used to walking around in them all day, because you will be walking much more than you expect to walk. I also suggest you dress appropriate for the weather, for the most part. If you don't think you can dress following my advice and still stand a chance at getting a job offer, please consider turning the interview down. Remember you're going to be at this library a lot, and if you won't feel comfortable dressing the way you normally dress while at work, you will not be happy there.  

One last thing... If I'm ever lucky enough to interview you for employment at my library, please rest assured that "it don't matter what you wear, [we're] checking out your savoir faire" and - of course - your qualifications.


(I hope you'll forgive the light hearted videos that are bookending this post. I needed to find a way to laugh about this and thought you might need a laugh, too.)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Interview Post: Baharak Yousefi



Biographical

Name?

Baharak Yousefi

Current job?
Head, Library Communications at Simon Fraser University

How long have you been in the field?

8 years.


How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?

Things about my office that make me happy are: a large wall-mounted laser-cut Arundhati Roy quote, my standing desk, and the Brutalist architecture of Arthur Erickson who designed SFU’s Bennett Library, where my office is located.





How do you organize your days?
I use my university’s officially sanctioned e-calendaring system, but cannot function without my Moleskine weekly notebook calendar. Pen and paper to-do lists forever!

What do you spend most of your time doing?
Meetings and emails.

What is a typical day like for you?
I am currently in a transition period from my previous role as the head of one of our branch libraries to a newly created communications position. Currently, my days are all about figuring out what the work should look like in the first year. I am also in the process of organizing the 2016 Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium with Emily Drabinski and Tara Robertson, and editing The Feminists Among Us: Resistance and Advocacy in Library Leadership with Shirley Lew. Spending time and energy in critical librarianship helps me make sense of my work.

What are you reading right now?
Reading Fingersmith by Sarah Waters and re-reading The Extreme Centre: A Warning by Tariq Ali. Up next is The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.

What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
“Say what you really think. Don’t try to guess what people want to hear. You won’t get it right and it will be exhausting.” This advice was given to me by one of my first managers about answering interview questions, but it has informed much of my practice.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
Pondering and not quite knowing what to do about our profession’s “diversity problem” especially with regards to race, ethnicity, and class. It’s not accurate to say I didn’t expect it at all, but it’s been surprising and tiresome to discover its ubiquity.

Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?

What is your least favorite word?
Moderation.

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
I sold books for a decade before going to library school and still dream about running my own bookshop. Cheesemonger and winemaker are also high on the list.

What profession would you never want to attempt?
Soldier.

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
Cat whisperer.

What are you most proud of in your career?
Relationships built and maintained across the many jobs, libraries, and projects. 

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
Committing acts of impatience is a mistake I’ve made and continue to make. What this can end up looking like is getting started on a project without a comprehensive consultation or a fully realized plan.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Wandering around Vancouver’s West End and Stanley Park, engaged in eating and drinking related activities, reading, procrastinating.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Annette DeFaveri


Baharak Yousefi is on Twitter as @BaharakY.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Emotional Labor & Mental Health in the Library



This post is part of LIS Mental Health Week 2016, an event that is being organized by Cecily Walker and Kelly McElroy. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments here, on Twitter (using the hashtag #lismentalhealth), or in any of the other ways suggested in the post I linked at the beginning of this paragraph.

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I know I've touched on the idea of emotional labor on here in the past, but I wanted to talk about it in more detail for this post. The first thing you need to know about it is that emotional labor is exactly what it sounds like: it is work that involves your emotions. We're talking about putting a smile on your face and keeping it there whether you're happy or not. It's about showing a pre-approved range of emotions while working with patrons/customers/students. There are times when being in a good mood publicly is easy enough, but there are also times when it's really REALLY hard work. More important, though, is that for a lot of people in higher ed and in libraries, this is 100% of their job.

This concept was identified a long while ago, and has even been discussed in light of libraries and higher ed for decades, but I first encountered the idea early last year. That first article (I have to admit I can't remember which was the first. I've read so many since then.) was like a cool breeze. Suddenly things made sense! How I could sit all day and still be exhausted made sense. I was glad to have the science to describe something I'd known for a long time: working with the public is exhausting for reasons beyond the physical.

After I recovered from that immense sense of relief, I starting thinking about my staff. People who staff our circulation desk have duties beyond that service point, but that service point is still the primary job of every library associate. Good service is crucial in any library, but with our large proportion of first generation college students and our need to make our community as comfortable as possible, it's the top priority at my library. And all of this means that emotional labor is central to the job our library associates do.

Because it is central to their job, I need to support my staff as much as I can. I have instituted a required professional development policy - everyone must spend at least an hour each week, undisturbed and on the clock, learning. But I leave the topic up to them. Self-paced learning on a topic of their own choosing is part of the support, but more important still is the guaranteed time away from the public eye.

Emotional labor is no doubt hard work, but I think it's hard because it's so necessary. And since it's so necessary, I - as the boss - need to support the people doing the hard work. I - as the boss - need to support the mental health of my staff. This is just a small thing I've started doing, but I know I need to do more. I need to develop a safety valve for when things aren't smooth: a method for staff to experience emotions that aren't in line with those pre-approved emotions I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

My support of staff mental health is definitely a work in progress, but I wanted to share what I've done so far. I hope it inspires other administrators to institute similar programs for similar reasons.