Friday, July 29, 2011

Academic Library Management for Non-Managers by Jennifer Lann

I was a sophomore in college when I first realized that I wanted to be an academic librarian.  It was my answer to the question, “How can I remain a generalist in a college setting?”  To test that answer, I spent my junior year’s January Term in my home town of Lancaster, Pennsylvania as an intern at the Franklin & Marshall College main library.  The staff was gracious.  They were happy to discuss their jobs with me, and even better, happy with their jobs.  I shadowed them, assisted with literature reviews, talked some but mostly listened, and basically confirmed that I was on the right path for finding my profession.

That was the gestalt.  But as with most experiences, there were a few discrete memories that survived the years since 1995.  One was my introduction to the World Wide Web part of the Internet, and how it could not only transform librarianship but also my ability to decipher song lyrics.  (I’ve long held that R.E.M.’s first album Murmur should have been titled Mumble instead.) 

Another memory was my discovery that I did not wish to become a government documents librarian.  Even though I liked and respected Franklin & Marshall’s gov docs librarian, his work was akin to translating an obscure language to reveal information that usually bored me, at least then.  (And as an avowed generalist, I admit that boredom with a little shame.  I was also 20 years old, if that’s an excuse.) 

Finally, there’s the memory that’s the point of this post: the advice of a young staff member who was working on his library degree.

“I have one piece of advice for you,” he told me.  I perked up. 

“When you go to library school, take an academic library management class.”  I slumped a little.  I explained that I had no aspirations to become a library director or any other kind of library manager.  Too many examples of the Peter Principle cautioned me that administrative positions can pull good people away from the heart of the professions that called them.  “Oh, I don’t plan to become a manager either,” he explained. “But a management course can help you become a better librarian.  You’ll understand the library as an institution better, you’ll be a better employee, and you’ll even be better equipped to ‘manage up.’” 

Manage up? 

“That’s when you decipher your boss’s management style, and learn to work with him or her accordingly.  It also means managing yourself and finding ways to make yourself useful as possible in your organization.”

Hmm, management, huh?  Still not my favorite topic.  “Have you found the class useful here at the library yet?” I asked him.  “Yeah, I see this place with a new perspective, and it’s helped me to suggest some projects that help the library and that I enjoy doing, and as an added benefit, my supervisor is pleased with me.”  The course sounded useful enough, and so I willed myself to remember his recommendation.   (Full disclosure of the obvious: the above quotes are paraphrases filtered through nearly 17 years, and so they resemble historical fiction more than a true transcript.)

Two years later and I’m enrolled in the Academic Library Management course at the School of Information Sciences (they dropped “Library” the year I enrolled) at the University of Pittsburgh.  The instructor was the director of the entire university library system, and there were a dozen or so students gathered for his course in one of the main library’s conference rooms.  “Show of hands: which of you aspire to become a library director?”  Two or three of the few male students raised their hands. 

“Is that all?  Then why are the rest of you here?”  He sounded genuinely surprised, which in turn surprised me at first; wouldn’t he be like that library student I met at Franklin & Marshall College and assume that his course was valuable for anyone in academic libraries?  I responded with that student’s recommendation and its rationale.  Some of my classmates had received similar advice from librarians.  The instructor raised his eyebrows thoughtfully: “Well, good.  I can see that.  In fact, some of the management literature you’ll be reading for this course would support those reasons. …But don’t you want to be a director someday?”  We shook our heads no.  We were in school to become librarians.

Fortunately, he didn’t hold our lack of leadership aspirations against us, and he proceeded to teach us about management and organizational theory, as well as about the history of libraries in general and academic libraries in particular.  All the while, he used his own leadership of the university library system as a case study.  That same semester I served as a reference intern on that front desk, and so I got to ask different staff their own take on this director’s leadership and decisions.  It wasn’t exactly a 360-view of that library, but it came pretty close.  Of course, not every academic library management course is taught by the manager of a library in which the students can intern.  Nevertheless, I gained all the more from my internship because of the course readings.  They changed how I observed the staff dynamics and the questions I thought to ask.  And that perspective carried over to my first full-time professional position at the library where I now direct, despite my initial lack of desire to ever become a director.

The course didn’t give me the answers; rather, it gave me a set of lenses through which to look for answers, as well as the awareness that they were lenses, plural, and not the Truth, singular.  Perhaps that metaphor comes as much from my undergraduate anthropology studies as it did from that academic library management course.  Once I took a medical anthropology course, all sorts of Western institutions lost their self-evidence in my eyes as their cultural underpinnings emerged.

That’s me being philosophical.  On a pragmatic level, the course gave me ideas about how to be a more effective librarian within my library and its larger institution.  It made it easier both to effect change and to work with the changes I couldn’t fully control.  And when my director announced she was leaving to direct a far larger library on the other end of the country, I realized that the course would help me serve as the library’s interim director.  It was a small enough library and I had worked with the director closely enough that I was the de facto interim director.  The “interim” part was a comfort; I still didn’t strive to be the actual director.  When my departing director first suggested I apply for the permanent directorship, I thus balked.  Then I paused and opened a door in my mind…but that’s another entry.

Jennifer Lann is the Director of Library Services at Landmark College in Putney, Vermont. (She's also my former boss.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Day in This Librarian’s Life, or "If It’s 10 O’clock, This Must Be an Assessment Meeting"

Here it is: my contribution to Library Day in the Life. From the website: “The Library Day in the Life Project is a semi-annual event coordinated by Bobbi Newman of Librarian by Day. Twice a year librarians, library staff and library students from all over the globe share a day (or week) in their life through blog posts, photos, video and Twitter updates.” 

I took notes as I went through my day since I knew I wouldn’t remember little details. I was also hoping that, at the end of the day, I’d be able to look through my notes and see common themes or threads. I was right. A couple of themes did emerge. First, I work on a lot of different projects during the course of a normal day. Understandable, since I’m an academic librarian and summer is when I get my big projects done. It’s all with the same end goal, though, so I make it work. Second, there was fodder for at least three more blog posts within my notes. Many of these projects are crying out for further explanation, but you’re going to have to wait.


This day began the same way almost every day this summer has. I’ve developed a “first thing in the morning” routine that includes mundane but necessary activities like dropping my computer bag off in my office, bringing my lunch up to the refrigerator in the staff room, and chatting with any colleagues that cross my path. Summer mornings are a lot more leisurely because I arrive at 8 am, but the library doors don’t open until 9.

Before going back to my office, I gathered materials for a few ongoing projects. I’m responsible for a monthly-during-the-academic-year newsletter that highlights new acquisitions and book industry news, so I scanned the new books shelf for items that I want to highlight in the August issue. I’m also in the middle of weeding our fiction section – a collection that has needed weeding for years – so I gathered some likely candidates for deacquisitioning and headed back to my office.

Next up on my morning agenda was checking email. This can be such a time vampire if I’m not careful, but I’ve got decent systems in place and was able to work my way through the overnight accumulation pretty easily. I had a lot of typical emails – ongoing listserv conversations, computer network problems that were announced and then resolved, a forwarded joke from a family member – but there was a fun one in the mix. Another member of the GNLIB (Graphic Novels in Libraries) listserv wanted advice about developing a core collection of titles. This was a fun request, so I answered it right away.

After finishing with email, I worked on the newsletter. I added the new books I’d grabbed, then a link to an obituary, and finally links to and information about some recent book award announcements. Then, with a simple switch of programs, I worked my way through the stack of books I brought from the fiction collection. I’ve already discussed my collection development philosophy, but I think the actual process I follow in making decisions about what to add and what to remove is worthy of its own blog post – so stay tuned.

After that, I had to run to back to back meetings. I’m in the midst of gathering information from everyone on staff to help me draft up an assessment plan for the whole library. Wow is this a convoluted piece of work, and it is taking up a lot of my time and energy this summer. (More on this one in a later post as well.)

Finally, it was time for lunch. Yum.


After lunch, I worked through more emails. If an email is going to take less than 2 minutes to handle, I try to do it right away – that’s the stuff I do in the morning. Anything that will take longer, I leave for later. I spent the next hour working my way through some of the more complex questions/requests/situations that had arrived via email over the last week or so. Email, email, email. It gets annoying, but it’s how we communicate most things on my campus.

Then I had another meeting about the assessment plan – this time with our archivist. I had anticipated 30 minutes, but we went for an hour. If there’s one thing I wish someone had warned me about while I was in graduate school, it’s the way meetings can take up so much of my time. My job gets in the way of my job. Fortunately, though, the meetings I had today were all productive.

I spent the last couple of hours of my day between reading and responding to blog posts, going through the notes I’d gathered in my meetings, and other assorted activities. I had an impromptu meeting with a newer colleague – he wanted to show me his first official office decoration. I talked to a faculty member who dropped by the library. Lots of little things added up, including a few things getting crossed of my To Do list, and then it was time to head home.


However, this wasn’t a typical heading home. It was a “Go out for a drink with colleagues” heading home. One of the nice things about working at this college is that more than 50% of the faculty and professional staff (the weird not-faculty-but-not-regular-staff category into which librarians fall) have started in the last 5 years, and a lot of us have become friends. We try to meet up, for drinks usually, on a regular basis. It was a nice way to end the day.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Art of the Schmooze by Ayanna Gaines

We learn about reference interviews and subject headings in grad school – useful things, sure –  but no one ever told us the best way to juggle a rum & coke at a vendor party. And seriously: why didn’t our professors tell us that there would be so many wine & cheese events, anyway?

The idea of networking, or “schmoozing,” can be frightening to new librarians. After all, it isn’t something that is taught in grad school. I’ve always wanted to teach a seminar on The Art of the Schmooze. But since I don’t see that as being added to the curriculum any time soon, I’d like to give you a few tips in hopes of making this whole thing a little less freaky. Maybe, by the next ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim, you’ll feel comfortable asking me about my purple hair.
  • Remember that we have lives outside of the library. This might come as a shock, but librarians don’t live in the library; we have outside hobbies & interests. Why is this important? Simple: this means there are things to talk about besides libraries! If you are at a party, and meet a librarian from a branch on the North Side of Chicago, you could start a conversation about call numbers -- but then you’d run out of things to say pretty quickly. And let’s face it, you probably get a little cranky when people, upon finding out you’re a librarian or in library school, start asking you about the Dewey Decimal System, right? Try to branch out; don't just talk shop. Try to pick up on personal cues that might give you other things to talk about; is your fellow Schmoozer eating a piece of that tasty smoked Gouda? Then go up and start talking about the new cheese shop down the street. Of course, there are other topics you can discuss besides cheese. Acceptable topics include: your neighbor's snazzy tie, your misunderstanding of your professor's grading scale, your disbelief in Pink's natural hair color, your excitement about the upcoming Oscar season. Unacceptable topics: your neighbor's bad comb-over, the fact that you're sleeping with your professor, your disbelief in Mel Gibson's religion, your excitement about your bunion surgery. Don't try to BS your way through a topic, though; if you know nothing about the Cubs, it's best to discuss a topic you both know something about. Like cheese.
  • Mingle. Especially if you're shy, it can be really tempting to stand in a corner. But you don’t need to work the entire room -- in fact, there are many successful Schmoozers who focus on a few people or circles. But you do need to stop holding up the wall and find a few people to chat with. You don’t have to become besties with them. You can find a small cordial-looking group, saunter up and say, “Hey, how’s it going? Fabulous Gouda, right?” And then introduce yourself.
  • Smile. Sometimes people get so caught up in trying to remember to schmooze that they forget to be approachable. If someone looks your way, smile; they might be as shy as you are, and are looking for an opening to discuss the Cubs or the awesome Gouda cheese.
  • Be light. Remember, this is a cocktail party, not a presidential debate. While it is okay to be passionate about your favorite wine or the new season of True Blood, you want to avoid getting into truly controversial topics until you’re really familiar with each other. Nothing kills a party like proclaiming your political platform.
  • No table dancing. If you’re drinking, it’s a good idea to know what kind of drinker you are. If you become a major flirt or an angry drunk after 3 daiquiris, then you should stop after 2. It is embarrassing for everyone to see a colleague falling-down drunk, especially if everyone else is only slightly inebriated. There is no hard-and-fast rule on the amount of alcohol to consume; if you are not a drinker, you can always abstain. You should do what makes you feel comfortable, but, at the same time, remain in control.
  • Be polite. Naturally, don’t talk with your mouth full, say “please” and “thank you,” take leave of others gracefully, and don’t hog the h'ors d’oeuvres, even if they are those little mushroom puffs that you like so much. Pay attention to social cues, such as people checking the time or glancing towards an exit, and take the hint that it might be time to either change the subject or find another group to hang with. Try to remember the names of the people you're talking with by coming up with mnemonics. This can be tricky; if you forget names, remember details about them, like the fact that they love Weezer or have two cats and are vegan. If another person joins your group, try introducing the new person in hopes that names will be dropped again.
  • Remember those connections. After a conference, I find myself with a pocketful of business cards (you have some, right? If not, it’s okay to have some made with a URL or basic contact information). If you want to remind yourself of where you met these people, and what makes them special, write down notes on the back of the cards. Little notes like “digs Meg Cabot” or “dances to ABBA,” anything that jogs your memory. Then later, touch base with these people by sending a quick note on Twitter, or Facebook, or even email.

The most important tip is to have fun. These suggestions aren’t intended to force anyone out onto the dance floor in a tiara. Instead, my intent is to make you feel confident in your ability to Schmooze. Connections are what librarianship is built upon: we are used to building these connections between our users and information; establishing these connections between our colleagues and ourselves is equally important. I hope you now feel a little more comfortable in your socializing and Gouda-consuming abilities. Enjoy!

Ayanna Gaines is a Reference and Instruction Librarian at Ventura College in Ventura, California. She loves maneki nekos and cheese. You can follow her on Twitter at @PopCulLibrn.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Do Titles Make the Librarian?

We librarians do love our labels. I think that all that our subject headings and metadata lead to cross-contamination (cross-pollination?) with the way we think about ourselves: academic librarian, cataloger, public librarian, etc. (Don’t even get me started on the professional vs. paraprofessional labeling.) Sometimes it gets even more specific. For instance, my job title is “Information Literacy/Instruction Librarian.” There are actually lots of descriptors that I apply to myself: academic librarian, information literacy librarian, outreach librarian, programming librarian, instruction librarian, adjunct professor, researcher, cat-owned, Chewbacca-obsessed, etc.  I could go on and on. Sure, to some extent this kind of quantification can be useful. An example: my “fiction selector” label helps me identify catalogs and listservs and online discussions. On the other hand, though, I’ve noticed that all these descriptors lead to a tendency to pigeon hole. I’ve started to fight that tendency, started trying to look beyond the specialist level. At a basic level, to bastardize Gertrude Stein, “A librarian is a librarian is a librarian.” I know that’s still a label, and still a kind of pigeon hole, but it’s a much bigger one. More elbow room.

It's a curious thing and I wonder how many other professions do the same. When discussing this idea with a friend, she made me realize that I’m not sure how much of this propensity is internally vs. externally imposed. I know that it would get awfully confusing around here – especially for the higher ups – if we were all just called “librarian.” So yes, there’s a need to have some distinctions, but when I think about how long it took me to even consider what other kinds of librarians are doing, I can’t help wondering if all my descriptors get in the way.

I bring this up because pretty much everything Cari Dubiel said in her guest post applies to all librarians (and librarian-alikes). Yes, some of the particulars she listed are more appropriate for public librarians, but her general ideas, especially how we need to “recognize that [we] don’t know everything,” are important skills for everyone. Having so much in common with her reminded me of how much I’ve learned from librarians who don’t inhabit the same pigeon hole as I do – and of how important that has been to my career’s evolution. My ideas about graphic novel collections in academic libraries? Completely adapted from public libraries and *gasp* book stores. Gaming in libraries? A gift from my friends in the teen librarian business. The way I teach research skills that reflect what college students actually do instead of some perfect model of how I think they should? Straight from the research of someone who started out as a school librarian.

What I’m trying to say is this: Just because you intend to be a [fill in the blank] librarian doesn’t mean you have nothing to learn from individuals who work in other parts of this profession. Instead of concentrating on the differences – a tendency towards which we are predisposed by definition (Subject Analysis, anyone?) – concentrate on the similarities. You never know what you’ll learn.

What about you? Have you ever borrowed an idea from someone who works in a library that’s very different from yours? What was it?

Come back Friday for another guest post. This week you’ll be hearing from Ayanna Gaines. Ayanna is an incoming Associate Librarian at Ventura College in California. Prior to her 3 years as a part-time reference and instruction librarian at Ventura College and 1 year at Cal State University Channel Islands, she was quite active in the Illinois library scene, working as Assistant Librarian at Elmhurst College and being on more committees than you could shake a stick at. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Give ‘Em What They Want: How to be a Great Public Librarian by Cari Dubiel

Cari Dubiel, author of my inaugural guest post, is the Assistant Manager, Adult Public Services, at Twinsburg Public Library in Twinsburg, Ohio. She has two blogs of her own: a personal blog, Walking Identity Crisis, and an official Twinsburg Public Library one, The ABC Book Reviews: A Beth and Cari Production.

I asked her to write about what she wishes she'd known in library school and/or as a new librarian. Here's what she wrote:

So you’re a new public librarian on the reference desk.  Congratulations--you work for the public!  Their tax dollars pay you; you have a responsibility to them.  They want the best programs and services you can offer.  They want a collection that provides the information they need and the thrills they crave.  You exist to give it to them.  If you have a problem with that, you should find another line of work.

Does that sound harsh?  It’s okay, because once you’ve come to terms with this concept, you can have a long and rewarding career ahead of you.  I’m assuming that you’ve started on the front lines, but even if you’re a cataloger, bookmobile driver, programming coordinator, or children’s librarian, you’re all part of the same mission.  I do not claim to have all the answers, and I still have a lot to learn. All the same, I hope you’ll value these tips.

Recognize that you don’t know everything.  I still have a hard time with this one.  When you have a patron staring you down, insisting that you must know all because you’re the librarian, it’s hard to admit.  Before you get to that point, you must acknowledge that you’re not an omniscient being.  I thought I knew all before I even had my library degree – I thought my eight years of paraprofessional experience had given me all I needed, and my degree was just a piece of paper that would be the gateway to more money.  Six years later, I am still finding gaps in my knowledge.  Do what you have to do to get help.  Ask your co-workers or manager, or call outside institutions for referrals.  It’s worse to give someone the wrong answer than to pretend you are all-knowing, and you can even be held liable if you give out legal, medical or tax advice.  Swallow your pride.

Never stop reading.  This may sound like a given – and this may be the easiest advice for you to follow.  It certainly is what I do the most naturally.  Maybe you’re tired of hearing that old myth that all librarians ever do is read.  It’s a myth that we sit idly and read for pleasure, but if you want to be a good librarian, you will have to read, even if you squeeze it in between your many other tasks or at home.  Read blogs, listservs, and e-mail from your colleagues.  Read Entertainment Weekly, the best source of trends in all the media you’ll add to your collection.  Even if you’re not a collection development librarian, knowing what patrons want will help you find items to pair them with.  Read widely – on business, computers, pets, cooking, and all types of fiction.  Try an audiobook.  If your library adds a new format of media, use it.  All these experiences will add depth to your service on the front line.

Get to know your community.  The nature of our job is service, and you will serve your community best if you get to know them.  No one knows what your patrons want except your patrons, so you must ask them.  Sometimes you will get tools such as holds reports, or your administrators will conduct surveys to collect data and create strategic plans, but you can help out on a daily basis at the reference desk.  Learn about your customers when they ask for help.  What services are they using?  What do they want more of?  Is the library open when they need it?  Learn their names.  Forge friendships and relationships.  Someone you meet at the desk may be able to do a great free program for you, or put you in touch with someone who can.  Or you could build a partnership with a local business that could benefit from the advertising you provide for them.  The more you learn, the easier it will be to get creative.
Get to know yourself and your emotional reactions.  This is a lot more important than you might think.  When you work with the public, you’re in customer service.  This means emotions will be involved.  You may not think you’ll fly off the handle, but the first time a customer starts screaming, you will be challenged.  You can’t take anything personally, not even when a patron calls you names and threatens to have you fired.  You have to think about how you can best serve someone even when his face is red and he’s raving.  Sometimes you have to hand the transaction off to another librarian who can handle the situation better; if not, you have to think of ways to help them quickly and coolly.  The best way to prepare for such things before they happen is to examine yourself and your own limits.  If you are quick to anger, as I am, practice calm and ways to keep cool in a crisis.  This skill will help you in other arenas as well. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What Was I Saying?, or Finding My Writing Agenda

It’s taken me a while to figure out what it is I really want to say about libraries – almost 8 years. I’ve been thinking about why that is, especially now that I have a direction. I think it’s mostly due to the kind of career I’ve built for myself. You see, I’ve always been some kind of public services librarian at small, liberal arts colleges. That means I’m a professional generalist. This isn’t a complaint. It’s actually one of my favorite things about what I do for a living, but this kind of career doesn’t translate well to a research & writing agenda. Sure, I had interests from day one. Website usability; applying traditional pedagogical research in the information literacy classroom; building relationships with faculty, students, & staff; integrating graphic novels and genre fiction into an academic library’s collection… all of these areas fascinated me then (& still do now), but I couldn’t decide which I wanted to pursue.

Since then, I’ve heard and read a lot about librarians writing for publication. I’ve been told, repeatedly, that even the greenest members of our profession have something to contribute. I don’t disagree with that sentiment, not in general. If I’d been forced to write, perhaps in a tenure track situation, I would have figured it out. On the other hand, with the way my interests have changed, I probably would have ended up with a schizophrenic publishing history. Perhaps I would have come to the same place of comfort that I’m in now, found the same passions, if I’d been writing from the beginning, but I doubt it. Because I had time to explore and become comfortable, I know that most of my early interests were related to being a better librarian. For instance, my never-ending quest to be a better teacher means I’ve read a lot about pedagogy, andragogy, and epistemology. I love teaching, and I like knowing that my information literacy instruction practice is grounded in theory. However, as much as I love doing and reading about teaching, I have no desire to write about it. Further, the ideas that make me want to add my voice to our professional literature didn’t even occur to me until a couple of years ago, and didn’t solidify until very recently. It might have taken me 8 years to get here, but I’m so glad I waited because now I can feel confident that this is really what I want to say and how I want to say it.

Do even brand new librarians have something important to contribute? Absolutely. If you are burning to add your voice to library literature, please do. On the other hand, if you want to hold back, want to immerse yourself for a while before speaking up, that works, too. The most important piece of advice I could give to anybody new to my beloved profession is this: it’s your career path, not anyone else’s, so you’ve got to make it your own.

Your turn: If you are published or planning to publish, how did you pick a topic? And how long did it take you to get there? If not, why aren’t you writing?

Speaking of writing agendas, next week’s post will be about mine.

Also, come back on Friday. I’ll be publishing the first in what I hope will be a long string of posts from guest authors. My first guest is going to be Cari Dubiel. Cari is the Assistant Manager, Adult Public Services, at Twinsburg Public Library in Twinsburg, Ohio. She has two blogs of her own: a personal blog, Walking Identity Crisis, and an official Twinsburg Public Library one, The ABC Book Reviews: A Beth and Cari Production.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"All We Are Saying Is Give [Twitter] A Chance"

Here’s the nutshell explanation of my recent love affair with Twitter:

I love Twitter because it really is a “social network.” It is social – chatting, joking, sharing, having fun, arguing, etc. It is also networking – I quite literally talk to librarians, writers, and academics from around the world on Twitter. Further, it’s immediate. To be completely honest, on its worst days, Twitter feels more genuine and human than listservs and other electronic communication methods do on their best.

Want more detail than that? Here’s a list of reasons I’m on Twitter along with an expanded explanation:  

Reason #1: The networking part of “social networking” has started to pay off recently. The connections I’ve made on Twitter have translated over into the real world. One exciting example of this is that I’ll be on a panel at a conference this October – a conference that I learned about from a Twitter contact.

Reason #2: Despite my reluctance to spend the money to attend major librarian conferences, I still have the benefit of most of the major events because of the back channel conference chatter that happens on Twitter. There are whole conversations about conferences that are not captured in the official proceedings, and sometimes the conversations happening on Twitter are more informative than what you’d see in any official document. For instance, when a particular speaker’s presentation was falling flat, I saw lots of: “Who is Jane Academic kidding? We haven’t been doing that for years.” On the other hand, when something was resonating with the crowd, I knew to seek out that presenters’ blog and articles. The librarians and library students in attendance vetted the proceedings for me and gave me short cuts to the “best of.”

Reason #2a: This isn’t just something that happens with librarian conferences, either. Smart phones are becoming ubiquitous, and microblogging/Twitter is also becoming more popular, so any major conference will have this same chatter happening alongside. On Twitter, I talk to academics other than librarians and I’ve seen similar conference hashtags from them.

Reason #3: I get so much from the organized chats. As I mentioned above, I’ve made connections with some amazing librarians and library students. One vehicle I have for this is #libchat – a conversation that happens every Wednesday evening, 8-9:30 PM Eastern Time. The organizer, Natalie Binder, solicits questions from participants ahead of time. During the conversation we all chime in, answering questions that interest us. Some questions turn into bitch sessions; a recent prompt about vacation time ended up that way. Other questions generate fantastic information sharing. For instance, I jotted down quite a few ideas when people were talking about successful marketing techniques.

Reason #4: I’ve started making connections with academics outside of librarianship. Since I work at the library at a small, liberal arts college, I wear many, many, MANY hats. Being aware of what is happening in fields outside my own is important for me. Twitter helps with this, too. Recently, I’ve been learning about what is happening in digital humanities, in open source publishing, and even in game theory. Further, it’s interesting to see people in different fields making similar statements. I talk to mainstream authors as well as academics. Many of them are taking steps to circumvent major publishers in their attempts to publish their work. Seeing mainstream authors and academic writers saying many of the same things… well, let’s just say that if the trends I’ve seen on Twitter continue, the publishing world is going to be very interesting over the next few years.

I know some of the stereotypes people have about Twitter. When I mentioned something to a colleague of mine who is an emeritus faculty member where I work – I’m not sure I even remember what I was trying to say – he made the tired joke about how he doesn’t care what people have for lunch every day. I know that there are people in the Twitter-verse who do tweet the minutia of their lives, but Twitter is one of those “it is what you make of it” kind of things. Among other things, I’m a nerdy, outgoing, academic librarian who has a lot to say about libraries and higher education. I get to learn on Twitter, and I get to teach there. If not for Twitter, I might not have found my inspiration, my desire to add to the written conversation about librarianship.

What do you think? If you are part of Twitter, why do you tweet? If you’re not, of if you’re one of the many who have quiet or silent accounts, why don’t you tweet?

Next Wednesday’s post is going to be about finding my voice, and why I’m glad I waited until this part of my career to start writing. Also, starting next Friday, I’ll be publishing a guest posts from other professional librarians once per week. (Yay!)

P.S. After I finished writing this entry, Time published a piece that echoes much of what I said here, but it’s aimed at a general (as opposed to librarian) audience. It's a good read and worth your time.