Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Long and Short of It, Part I: ACRL 2013

I'll admit it. I had low expectations going into this. I've written in the past about how I'm not a fan of big conferences. I mostly submitted my roundtable proposal so I could have an excuse to go hang out with my roundtable co-leader and to hear the Henry Rollins keynote. And if those two things had been all I got out of attending, it would have been worth it. Ayanna *is* pretty awesome, and Rollins was even better than I'd anticipated: he gave me a catch phrase I'm adopting for my own. But that wasn't all I got.

Below you'll find the first part of an overview that I decided was too long to be just one post. Part II will follow next week.

Battle Decks

From the program: "Battle Decks is an event where speakers present PowerPoint presentations they have never seen before. Some people call it 'PowerPoint karaoke.'  It's fun for participants and audience members alike and helps hone your presentation skills. A few audience members will be asked to compete. Are you game?"

I went mostly to humor my friends. The event itself held no appeal for me - seemed too "cool kid" for me. Wow, was I wrong. It's hard to describe what it was about Battle Decks that made it so fantastic, but when someone is presented with a theme and a random set of slides (random and hilarious) and is then expected to give a speech that makes sense? Hilarity ensues. I'm proud to say that this year's winner is a past contributor to this blog.

Our Roundtable

The roundtable I co-lead was "'You Have Stephen King? Really?', Or, The Role of Popular Reading Materials in Academic Libraries." The best thing about it, in my opinion, was that people actually came. Heck, we had to pull an extra chair over. The conversation was great, as well. Even though I was one of the people leading the discussion, I still got some new ideas out of it.

Exhibit Floor

Not as big as the exhibit floor at ALA, but still pretty darned huge. It was still big enough that I didn't get to visit all the booths. Actually, I was confused (still am, to be honest) about why the exhibit floor wasn't open for the entire run of the conference - or at least for more of it.

Well, that's as good a stopping point as any. Next week I'll write about the sessions I attended and some of the things I gleaned. For those of you who were able to attend this, or previous, ACRL conferences - what was your favorite part?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

One Small Step, by Steve Thomas

In fewer than forty hours, to my delighted surprise, the Kickstarter campaign I’m running for my podcast was fully-funded. I have plans for any further money I happen to receive for the remainder of the campaign, but even if the pledges completely dried up, I’d be satisfied because I kept my expectations reasonable. I planned out my initial goal to help me succeed in moving the show forward qualitatively.

Sure, sometimes we allow ourselves to be so overtaken by our grandiose dreams that we won’t accept anything less (believe me, I understand having big dreams - just check out the stretch goals for the campaign), but perfectionism can be our greatest enemy. As librarians, we are trained to focus on getting the details right while at the same time holding up the Big Idea folks in our profession as the gold standard. But that’s not the only way to move forward. Even making mistakes can mean forward progression, so long as they are the right mistakes.

Look at an example from another industry: Apple stock has taken a hit in recent months because investors and the market are waiting for that next huge leap into the future, the next iPod, iPhone, iPad, not content with the slower pace of improvements they’ve made to their hardware and software. But why does every improvement have to be earth-shattering? Apple has turned the technology world on its head a half dozen times since its inception. Why can’t modest, iterative improvements be enough sometimes?

That’s not to say that “good enough” should be “good enough” or that we should always set our expectations low. We need lofty goals to aim toward and occasionally need to take that leap into the great unknown in the name of progress, but not every leap has to be of the Neil Armstrong variety and even these larger goals can be measured in smaller steps.

Slow progress is still progress. The backers of my Kickstarter have allowed me to take one small step into the future of a grander show, one I couldn’t’ve made on my own, and the completion of that step is as satisfying as taking a giant leap. Enjoying the small victories makes the larger ones even sweeter.

Steve Thomas is a public librarian and the host of Circulating Ideas, the librarian interview podcast. He lives in the suburbs of Atlanta with his wife, two kids, and two cats. He has never watched an entire episode of Doctor Who but hopes you can forgive him. This is the second post he has written for this blog. The first was “You Are Going to Fail (But That's Okay).” You can follow him on Twitter@stevelibrarian.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What I'm Reading Lately

So, I had a conference paper due yesterday. And with all that has been going on for me lately, I was working on it up until almost the last minute (it was due at Midnight, and I submitted it at 9:39 pm). As a result, this week's letter is really just a collection of things I've been reading lately that have me thinking.

This is actually a re-read, but I have fallen off the Getting Things Done wagon, so I'm revisiting this book. Just look at the subtitle to get a feel for why I'm reading it.

The Arena Flowers Twitter Feed - An Explanation is also on my radar. If you aren't aware of what they're doing on Twitter, go look now. They truly understand social media, and everybody out there who does library marketing should pay attention to what Arena Flowers is doing.

Resiliency, Risk, and a Good Compass: Tools for the Coming Chaos is something I've known about for a while, but it came up recently while I was working on an article. I need to revisit Joi Ito's rules of innovation more often.

Okay, that's it from me for now. Back with more about ACRL next week.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Selecting Materials for a Latino User Collection: Issues and Recommendations, by Roberto Delgadillo


In this blog post I will provide guidance on how to select materials for a Latino User Collection. I will also briefly discuss associated issues and offer recommendations based on my experiences as a public and academic librarian serving Latino populations for the past 16 years. Basically, some tips and tricks and best practices I’ve developed during my career. [Editor's note: This is obviously written from a large library perspective, but please keep reading regardless - there's advice here we can all use.]

1. Review Collection Development Policies and Practices: If you have a formal collection development policy, you need to review it to identify practices and procedures that are potential barriers to your multicultural collection development efforts. Some well-meaning policies unintentionally hamper the development of collections for Latino users. Your policy should clearly indicate that your library collections are for the benefit of everyone in your service area and that some information needs in your community can only be met by purchasing library materials that are bilingual or in languages other than English. Including this idea in your collection development policy is a clear signal that you are serious about meeting the information needs of all your citizens. In addition, a policy statement will give you backup in case any members if your community complain about the noticeable increase in the number of Spanish materials in your library. Some libraries favor the purchasing from one or two major vendors, discouraging the purchase of items from small or specialty presses in the United States, publishers and distributors outside the country, neighborhood bookstores, or conferences and book fairs. This practice to established library policies adds a complication to selecting materials for your Latino users.

2. Link Collection Development to Information Needs: You will gain much-needed support and assistance from Latino users by showing that your attempts to meet their identified needs are sincere. A step in the right direction is making certain that your collection development efforts are linked very closely to the results of your library’s Latino demographic and community needs assessment. Analysis of your Latino demographic, and community needs assessment, will help you determine where the greatest needs are—and will enable you to develop the library’s collection for Latinos users, based not on any preconceived ideas of what might be needed, but on the needs expressed by them. Finally, you will need to develop a plan that shows how your library will allocate collection development funds to meet these needs. It is impossible to obtain everything that is needed all at once; but, it is crucial that you make a good-faith effort to obtain materials where they are needed.

3. Establish and Listen to a Latino Advisory Group: A voluntary Latino advisory community group may be helpful in developing a collection for Latinos. You can share your ideas on the allocation of resources with members of this advisory group to get feedback on and support for your library strategies and fiscal allocations. Members of advisory groups can provide direct assistance in several ways:
  • When new books are processed, they can prepare bilingual handouts and or bibliographies publicizing the new book arrivals.
  • They can review the newly acquired materials and write bilingual articles about them for your library’s social media platforms.
  • They can be involved in organizing Spanish book clubs based on the new arrivals.

Your local situation will best inform you to think of other possible uses for this advisory group. Remember that this advisory group can also serve as one of your political action groups when needed.

4. Handling Spanish and Bilingual Materials: Your library’s selectors who are unfamiliar with Spanish will have difficulty choosing Spanish library materials that are the most appropriate for your Latino library users. Just as an English-speaking American might have some difficulty with British English or with English from several hundred years ago, so too might an Americanized Latino have some difficulty reading books in Spanish from different Latin American countries. If the language barrier is too great, the material will not be used or enjoyed. Generally speaking, the selector should try to select materials that are closest to the vernacular used by Latinos in the community, but this is not an absolute rule.

Bilingual materials also present a problem to English-monolingual selectors, as they will not be able to judge the quality of books that contain inferior translations. One solution is to have bilingual and bicultural library staff that can make these kinds of judgments. The next best solution is to encourage selectors to interact with and get advice from bilingual individuals in the community.

A significant number of English-speaking Latinos have very limited Spanish speaking and reading skills. Consequently their preference will be for English-language materials on a wide variety of subjects. You cannot assume that all Latinos want or need Spanish or bilingual resources.

Make sure that your collection includes English-language materials about the history of Latinos in the United States, with particular emphasis on the history of the particular subcultures represented in your service area. It should also include a selection of literary works by U.S. Latino authors writing in English, as well as English translations of major literary works from the Spanish-speaking world. Your collection probably already addresses many of the needs of Latinos whose first language is English but remember to utilize the community needs data and Latino advisory members as sources of suggestions and trends.

5. Support Selectors: You need to help provide a supportive atmosphere to ensure that selectors can develop skills and confidence in selecting Spanish library materials. Most likely, starting a Latino user collection from scratch will necessitate change, some of which could be drastic. Some staff will respond quite well; others may have a more difficult time. Useful strategies include the following:
  • Establish in-house teams to discuss Latino collection development issues and resolve any problems that arise.
  • Support attendance at national, regional, and state conferences and workshops where Latino collection development issues are discussed.
  • Cooperate with other libraries and library associations to bring outside speakers and experts to local workshops and conferences.
  • Encourage collection development staff to interact with the Latino community and solicit ideas on improving the library’s collections.

Being aware of these issues and dealing with them constructively will establish and help ensure your library’s overall success in collection development as it may very well depend on how effectively staff can respond and adapt to the needs of customers.

Roberto C. Delgadillo is a Humanities, Social Sciences and Government Information Services Manager/Librarian with the Peter J. Shields Library at the University of California, Davis. Before UC Davis, he worked as a Public Services Librarian and Copy Cataloguer at the Inglewood and Beverly Hills Public Library systems. He rants daily on his Facebook under the nom de guerre The Broken Token.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Cults of Librarian Personalities

I went to ACRL 2013 last week, and I'm still thinking thinks about the conference in general. I plan to write a general review/overview of my experience, but I want to take my time with it and get it right. In the meanwhile, there is something from the conference that keeps coming to mind, and that I want to address right away: the Rock Star Librarian / Cults of Librarian Personalities phenomenon.

In addition to nabbing many free pens... I mean, talking to lots of vendors on the exhibit floor... I attended sessions, as one does at conferences. These ranged from very small, such as the roundtable I co-lead, to very VERY big, such as the keynote given by Henry Rollins (I have a huge intellectual crush on him now). At least one of the sessions was something lead/given by someone I consider a Big Name in Libraries, a Rock Star Librarian, an inspiration for a Cult of Librarian Personality. Normally I avoid these people, preferring to spend my time listening to and talking with people who are doers instead of thinkers (thanks, Andrew Whitis, for giving me the perfect phrasing for this).

So why did I go? How did I end up experiencing a Cult of Librarian Personality first hand? Because, despite thinking that particular Big Name is an utter tool (judging from a few brief personal interactions we've had), I also think that Big Name is utterly brilliant. I have read articles and books and blog posts written by Big Name. Heck, I bought a copy of a book by Big Name for myself because I liked it so much I wanted to be able to write in it, guilt-free. The thing is, even though Big Name might be a Big Tool, Big Name also makes me think. I know I can take the ideas I get from Big Name, smoosh them around until they fit my circumstances, and make them my own.

So, no, I'm not a fan of the Rock Star Librarian mentality, but I know those individuals can serve a purpose in this field - at least in my life, they do. They all influence my professional practice, whether it is to avoid making what I see as their mistakes or to moosh their ideas to fit my context. I say, let the Rock Star Librarians rock on. I'll be over here, continuing on in my indie pop star sensation/minor success way, and be happy doing so.

But what about you? What do you all think of this phenomenon? Do you avoid Big Name Librarians at all cost? Seek them out because you love to hate them? Have a true fondness for one or more of them?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Librarians, Tenure, and Research, by Kirstin Dougan

The question of whether academic librarians should be part of a tenure system on par with teaching faculty is not a new one, and this post will not debate the pros and cons of the issue. However, I offer the thoughts of a librarian who went from an academic position in which librarians did not have faculty status or tenure (but instead had something called continuing appointment), to one in which librarians have faculty status and are held to standards as rigorous as those for other faculty.

For some background, the AAUP/ACRL recently put out a revised statement on college and university librarians and tenure. All in all I agree with this statement. However, I do so with some lingering ambivalence. You see, this is my third professional position (three different institutions), and the only one at which librarians have tenure. Over five years ago I came to this aspect of the job reluctantly, but willing to tackle the challenge of research and tenure in order to have the job I want, at an institution I admire, and to be back in a part of the country I adore. Now, more than five years later, my tenure papers will start their long process forward. I am excited about the research I am doing and questions I am examining, and I can truly say that the research part of my job keeps it interesting and thought-provoking.

The biggest challenges I faced were the need to develop a research agenda and learn how to implement it in a relatively short amount of time. If you look, you’ll find that there are many articles in the library science literature that address this topic, but here are a few guiding principles. How does one decide what to research? First, think about questions that intrigue you. What issues do you face in your job on a regular basis that would benefit from exploration and data collection? My research questions all come directly from my daily work as a public services librarian in a large academic music library. Whatever you choose, make it something that interests you and that you want to spend some serious time with.  Ideally, it will be something that you can analyze in pieces and get more than one project/publication out of. Next, think about how you can gather data on your question. You must match the methodology to the question at hand or your work won’t produce meaningful results. There are several good resources on research question development and research methodology, and the one that really got me thinking was Practical Research Methods for Library and Information Professionals by Susan Beck and Kate Manuel. Also, it’s likely that your campus will require institutional review board training/applications for research projects involving people (surveys, focus groups, observational, etc.) so plan ahead for this.  Many campuses offer faculty and staff funding opportunities as well as survey and statistical support for their research, at a minimum.

Make research and writing a priority. Many productivity advocates say to write every day to keep the ideas and words flowing. Set weekly writing “dates” with a colleague, either a librarian or another faculty member. Share your goals with each other at the beginning of the session and check in when you’re done. Get advice from colleagues about projects and ask them to read your work throughout the process. Not all library tenure systems are the same. Some, like ours, include elements of librarianship, research, and service to the school and/or the profession, and have expectations equal to that of teaching faculty. Keep those expectations in mind and prioritize your efforts. If publication is a primary requirement for your tenure case, don’t do conference presentations unless the proceedings will be published or you can turn that work into a peer-reviewed article.

Of course, research and publication isn’t limited to those librarians who need it for tenure. I’d encourage anyone to consider taking on a research project that is important to them. The opportunity and support to do research has informed and transformed my librarianship, and I would like to think that the publications I have produced have increased the profession’s knowledge base.

Kristin Dougan is the Music and Performing Arts Librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She tweets both @kmdougan and @mpalillinois. This is her second post for this blog. The first was “How to Prepare to be a Subject Specialist Librarian.”

[Editor's note: Kristin recently gave a presentation on this topic. A Google doc of the slides is available.]

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

"What If You Already Have The Job You Want?": Revisiting Professional Dress

I know I've already written about how I dress at work, but wardrobe has been on my mind again lately. This is partly because of an article from 99u on the topic, but it's also because of my new job.

The new digs haven't changed my own wardrobe as much as I thought they would. Not yet, anyway. Sure, I no longer wear jeans on Fridays, even dark washed ones, as I did in previous jobs. I'll admit that I've been seen twice in my building wearing jeans, but in both cases it was a brief thing - one time was because I dropped by on a Sunday while I was out doing errands, and the other was because I changed into jeans at the end of my day before going to a casual event right after work. Other than that, I still hover in what I think of as the nicer end of "professorial".

So, no, I've not been obsessing about what I wear to the library. Instead, I've been thinking about what the rest of the staff wears. My library is small enough that everyone works with the public, so we're all subject to this. Sure, I have different kinds of people working here - librarians, clerks, student workers (and the students are my main concern) - but members of our community aren't necessarily going to notice the difference. Just like my thinking about gossiping versus community building, I'm hoping to find a balance between approachable and way-too-casual. There are some things that are obviously wrong: ripped jeans, super-tight t-shirts, cleavage (either bosom cleavage for the ladies or plumber's crack cleavage for either gender). However, just like I don't want extremely casual, neither do I want everyone who works for me to come in looking like they're about to walk into a courtroom.

After those clear examples, things get a bit more muddled. For instance, I'm sure most people would agree that ragged, worn out sweatshirts aren't appropriate, but what about brand new ones that are holiday themed or that bear the name of the college where my library is located? There are other examples where the line isn't obvious, so I'm not going to change any policies until my thinking is clearer. The two things I know for sure are that I want members of our community to feel they are dealing with professionals and that I don't want my staff to dress in a way that is off-puttingly formal or informal.

I'm continuing to noodle my way through my ideas, and I've found a few good dress codes that are helping me make decisions, but I'm wondering what you all think. Finally, for the record, in reference to the above picture: if any of my staff came in dressed as Batman, Hellboy, or even Multiple Man, I'd probably be okay with it. I am a proud nerdbrarian, after all.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

First Thursday's Just For Fun: Beer!

I am a librarian and I must, by law I believe, love wine and/or craft beer. Wine doesn't like me much, but that's okay because craft beer loves me, and I love it back.

There are many I adore, and I'm always finding new ones to love. But in the interests of keeping this to a readable length, I've only listed three. The beers you see below are off the top of my head:

HopDevil IPA by Victory

This is definitely my favorite IPA.

Description from the brewery: "Bold, spicy and Menacingly Delicious™, this American hopped India Pale Ale offers an aromatic punch and then follows through with a lasting, full-bodied finish provided by quality German malts."

Raison D'Etre by Dogfish Head

I could drink this beer every day, all day, in the winter.

Description from the brewery: "A deep mahogany, Belgian-style brown ale brewed with beet sugar, raisins and Belgian-style yeast."

Lucky 7 by Evo

I was introduced to this one recently, and it was love at first sip. Super local (they are located in Salisbury, Maryland) as far as I know, but if you're anywhere nearby, definitely get some of this delish beer.

Description from the brewery: "Black with garnet highlights, this porter is rich and full flavored with notes of chocolate, coffee and smoke playing off the sweeter toffee and dark dried fruit tones."

So, how about you? Do you have a favorite craft beer?

By the way, if you didn't already know it, Jake Berg - who has written for this blog in the past - is one of the people behind DC Beer, a beer blog that is well worth your attention if you don't already read it.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

It Can Thereby Be Proven That One... Should Talk Like a Normal Person


There is so much to love about academia - the challenge, the communities we serve, the commitment to growth - but there is one thing about this world that I absolutely loathe: academic speak. Pick up any academic journal, in library science or any other discipline, and you stand a good chance of seeing it. The third person pronouns, the passive verbs, the conditional language, and the fifty-cent words that get in the way of any kind of the meaning. I despise it all so much that, when I taught freshmen writing classes in the past, I went out of my way to pick topics where the academics in that field talk like people.

The thing is, I'm not the only one who feels this way. There are many essays, books, articles, etc., to which I could point that all make the same point: plain language is teh bestest. Just so you know I'm not fibbing about this abundance, here are two of my favorites (both of which are so good that they were assigned reading for the freshmen classes I taught):

I'm bringing this problem up here because of a book review I wrote that was published last week. The book itself was okay. It definitely had its issues, but there were also good bits. My big problem with the book is how the authors' adherence to academic conventions absolutely got in the way of readability. It's too bad, too, because the topic was so promising.

I'm not sure how to combat the problem of Academic Speak, other than writing as plainly as I can manage in my blog and, when I get the chance to do so again, influencing undergraduates to write that way, too. What do you all think?