Thursday, February 15, 2018

Interview Post: Spencer Brayton


Spencer Brayton

Current job?
Library Manager at Waubonsee Community College. We have campuses in Sugar Grove, IL, Aurora, IL and Plano, IL (all about 50 miles west of Chicago, IL). As Library Manager, I am responsible for day-to-day library services and operations for the three campus libraries, in addition to strategic planning for the future of our campus libraries.

How long have you been in the field?
7 years

How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?
Fish bowl. Not a lot of privacy, but I have a nice view of the library. It's great to be able to see students studying and working together. I like having an open door policy, so it works well. Also, we just installed some new technology in the study space next to my office, so I am eager to see how it is used.

How do you organize your days?
Calendar and post-it notes (a lot!). I think it's also important to block some time out for reading, especially about our profession, technology, and leadership. We sometimes are so busy dealing with what comes up on a daily basis. It's helpful to take a step back and reflect on your work and opportunities/possibilities.

What do you spend most of your time doing?
Supporting staff and colleagues. Budgets and planning as well of late. I also spend a lot of time on professional develop work and writing. As I am still fairly new in my position (7 months!), I like to get around and visit each campus library location. This spring, we are embarking on a process to update our library mission and visions statements.

What is a typical day like for you?
Meetings, email. I'm focusing on building relationships internally and externally with other departments (academic and non-academic). Still learning about my institution as I settle into my new job!

What are you reading right now?
Re-reading Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks.

What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
Slow-down! Patience is important. Each institution has its own culture and it takes time to learn that. I value this advice as it allows me the time it takes to build good working relationships.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
Supporting multiple campus library locations. I really enjoy visiting the different locations- all are great learning spaces with their own unique feel. 

Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?

What is your least favorite word?

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
Being a chef. I always wanted to attend cooking school.

What profession would you never want to attempt?
K-12 teacher- I don't think I'd be very good at it. I have a lot of respect for these professionals and the time they put into their work.

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
Seeing the future (although I also recognize the importance of being present).

What are you most proud of in your career?
Being able to present and publish research with some great colleagues. This collaborative work has allowed me to travel and visit different countries and cities. I am also most proud to be a part of an awesome profession and great mentors and colleagues!

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
I've moved too quickly with change in the past- which is why the professional advice above is so important for me! I value the importance of supporting colleagues I work with and working hard to be transparent and admitting when I make mistakes.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Reading, watching my favorite sports teams, being with family.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Christian Lauersen, Shirley Lew, Lauren Pressley

Spencer tweets at @brayton_spencer.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Revisiting the Dread: Public Speaking


The thing about speaking in public is... I still hate it. Loathe it. Get stomach aches over it. But I also still seek out opportunities to do it on a regular basis. So, despite the fact that it's been almost 6 years since I last wrote about speaking in public, and how important a skill it is, talking in public is still a stumbling point for me.

I have come to accept that my process is:

  • Agree to give a talk (sometimes I submit proposals, sometimes I'm invited);
  • Futz and futz about topic and title for an inordinate amount of time;
  • Write furiously and generally hate what I've written;
  • Pay way too much attention to the slide-deck, perfecting the flow of the memes and dumb jokes - sometimes to the exclusion of the content;
  • Practice and edit my remarks even more until I absolutely loathe them;
  • Leave the talk alone until the day before;
  • Edit again the night before until I only mildly hate what I've written;
  • Panic and breathe funny right before I speak;
  • Semi disassociate while I'm talking (honestly, it feels a little like an out of body experience) but somehow make complete sense and never seem nervous;
  • Relax, because it's over.

How do I know I made complete sense? By looking at Twitter. I'm actually sometimes amazed when people quote me in a tweet... "I said that? Really? Wow, that's kind of brilliant." Here are a couple of examples:

I had only vague memories of saying both of those things when I read them on Twitter. And these weren't the only positive things said. People mentioned the memes and jokes. People mentioned that I gave good advice. Even more, I've been invited to speak other places because of how well my talks have been received. So... I must be doing something right?

All of this is my way of saying that you're never as bad a public speaker as you think, and don't worry if your process doesn't look like what other people do. Yes, plan ahead. Yes, edit. Yes, practice. But beyond that, know you'll be okay. I absolutely dread public speaking, but I keep doing it because I know I have things to say. I also know you have things to say, so no matter your experience - keep talking. We'll listen.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Connecting Research to Practice and Practice to Research: A Brief (Fun!) Introduction, by Abigail Phillips

scrabble letters spelling data across the face of an open book

Back when I was in library school, I had few expectations concerning what I would learn or how it would apply to my previous experience work in libraries. (I didn’t plan on beginning this post the way it happened, but here we are.) I started my MLIS program in what was then the School of Library and Information Studies at Florida State University with the goal of becoming a librarian, learning whatever I needed to learn to become that librarian. I wish I could say that I had an interest in LIS scholarship beyond what an instructor required me to read as part of a course. But I didn’t. That’s why I think it’s a bit funny that I ended up with a PhD in Information Studies.

Looking back, I didn’t even have a solid understanding of what “research” meant, how it worked, or why it is important for practice. Our field is not alone in an often perceived divide between research and practice. Between academics and practitioners. In my postdoctoral fellowship, I work within education where there are similar discussions about this division. Now that I spend the majority of my day researching, writing, and reading about LIS and related fields, I have an improved perspective on the impact of research on practice and practice on research. I’ve also taught MLIS and professional development courses where I’ve introduced research principles, approaches, and examples in practice. For instance, the following two paragraph could be one example.

In an IMLS-funded study I’ve been contributing for the past year and a half, we’ve worked with school and public librarians to develop an understanding of what supports they need to provide STEM-oriented Making in their libraries. We began by observing librarian practices as they went about everyday responsibilities in their libraries and then used what we learned to develop professional training materials, potential library design hypotheses, and a framework for library teen program development.

What we observed in the library, supported by our understanding of LIS, education, and learning science scholarly literature, aided us in developing early findings and possible directions for additional research. Later formal interviews with the librarians participating in our study helped clarify the needs, constraints, and opportunities within their daily jobs that may not have been as clear during observations. A mixture of research methods, librarian supplied materials (such as program flyers and school newsletters), and participation in library program development added to even more data to analyze and make sense of for sharing.  

With an example of research supported practice in mind, I want to return to talking about the divide between research and practice. Others have explored the communication challenges between LIS researchers and librarians, describing librarians as indifferent to conducting or participating in research, unknowledgeable about conducting scholarly research, and focused instead on the day-to-day activities of library work (something I completely understand as a former public librarian). The piece I read suggests that researchers make more of an effort to publish in practitioner publications. This makes sense on the surface, but usually the tenure push is for publishing in traditional peer reviewed journals.

It is part of the culture and norms of academia that hinders communication between LIS researchers and those in the field. But the question I have is whether or not librarians will actually read articles in trade publications or see the value. Thinking back to my librarian life, I had little time or energy to read about research or discussion seemingly unconnected to my work. This post will not end with an answer but instead, encouragement more continued conversation.

There are no easy answers here. I think about this a lot, but even I struggle sometimes communicating to librarians the research I do and how it relates to real world librarianship. This should be an easier conversation because we both, researchers and practitioners, benefit from sharing discoveries, practices, and understandings.

Abigail Phillips, PhD is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences at Utah State University. Her research interests include digital youth, cyberbullying, empathy, libraries, librarianship, information ethics, and making. She can be found by email:, Twitter: @abigailleigh, or website: