Thursday, June 30, 2016

Interview Post: Robin Bradford



Robin Bradford

Current job?

Collection Development Librarian

How long have you been in the field?

I started my very first library job in 1992, so….24 years. Wow.

How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?

My office, right now, is clean. Hooray! But, normally, there are books and papers cluttering it up. Because, even though I get a fraction of the paper that I got when I started doing collection development in 2001, the clutter seems to cling to me like a designer fragrance. Eau du paper.

How do you organize your days?
This is a great question and I wish I had a great answer. It usually works out to me doing print based materials 3 days a week, and AV 1-2 days a week. I focus mainly on new things, but the replacements issue is huge in my collection areas (fiction, music CDs, and fiction DVDs) so time has to be set aside for replacements, too. I have a reminder on my outlook calendar for replacement DVD ordering, because it’s easy to forget but so important. I also work 16 hours/month in public service, so time has to be set aside for that too. That’s usually when I order Overdrive books, because I don’t need to be in my office with catalog and/or journals to do it. I take a weekly turn on the library’s twitter page (visit me on Tuesdays @TRLDistrict) and then there are the little things like meetings, conferences, programs, and special projects, that get tossed into various days. You’d think that every day would be the same, but that is rarely the case.

What do you spend most of your time doing?
Discovering things to order.

What is a typical day like for you?
Usually, the first thing I do is read email, then check in with twitter. Check the news, see what’s going in booklandia [Editor’s note: Publishers’ Marketplace is behind a paywall, but it’s Robin’s favorite.]. Decide what format I’m going to focus on that day (audiobooks, large print, regular print, a certain genre, DVDs, music CDs) and then off we go. If it’s baseball season, that’s usually the soundtrack in my office.

What are you reading right now?
Dead Man’s Debt by Elliott Kay, Beyond Addiction by Kit Rocha and just last night I finished Skies of Ash by Rachel Howzell Hall. I recently discovered this series, and it is my new obsession.

What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
“Don’t ever pretend you’re not smart.” That sounds like good LIFE advice, but it was definitely good professional advice. Thank you, Georgia Cravey! And “If you’re going to bring me a complaint, come with 2-3 suggestions on how to fix it” Thank you, Penny Pace-Cannon.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
Paying $80 for one copy of an ebook.

Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?
Today, it is conundrum.

What is your least favorite word?
Entitlement. (My least favorite attitude, as well.)

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
Professional cellist.

What profession would you never want to attempt?

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
Telekinesis. I’m actually really mad about this.

What are you most proud of in your career?
Opening up collections to a much wider variety of materials, and making a wider variety of people feel like their library really does want to have the things they’re interested in.

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
HA! I actually talk about my mistakes all the time on twitter. One of my favorites was ordering 85 copies of a book when I meant to order 5. Luckily, most of them were able to be sent back. Not all 80 copies, though… I’ve ordered things that were tiny, there was also that football book once with the astroturf cover…

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
I’m a tv show addict, so probably discovering a new show, or catching up on current shows, or watching the show my friends told me about and I never did see….If a show was on during 2004-2008, when I was working and in law school, there’s a good chance I missed it. Prison Break, Lost, Friday Night Lights, Heroes….yeah, I have a lot of catching up to do. If someone has forced me outside into the world, I’m probably at a restaurant, a baseball game, or somewhere near large bodies of water.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Shayera Tangri.

Robin tweets, a lot, at @tuphlos.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Minority Serving & Representing Libraries

We are a predominately white and female profession. I'm not so much worried about the woman power stuff (and I do include anyone who identifies as female part or all of the time in that term), but the Caucasian aspect bothers me. Especially at my own institution, which has a student body that is largely African American. This topic came up a few months ago when I was participating in a #libleadgender conversation on Twitter, one that was - I think - lead by April Hathcock. Talk had turned to how we work towards inclusion as a way to serve our community:

As I said above, I work at a minority serving institution, and every day I try to move towards this kind of inclusion. Someone asked me to explain further what I do, so here it is. This is by no means scientific, but I feel it helps the situation.
  • I start recruiting students to work at the library before they've even started classes. Any time I work an orientation (and I work plenty of them), I'll answer anyone's questions about jobs in the library but I will bring up the topic with all students of color. I talk about how working in the library isn't just sitting at a desk doing your homework, about how we give our student workers important tasks to do and sometimes even have them take the lead on projects so it will look good on a resume and/or internship application.
  • I skip the name on application materials and look at the body of their application/cover letter/resume/etc. first. I am very white. I was out in the sun for hours this weekend, and I think I've darkened almost to an ecru (usually my skin is more cream color). I also have a fairly Caucasian sounding name. Study after study has shown bias, either conscious or unconscious, even when it comes to whether your name *sounds* white. This is my way of controlling for that bias.
  • We do book displays tied to different minority groups and people of color outside of their designated months. We had a display about protest culture and important figures tied to civil rights protests in the fall instead of during African American History Month. We had another display with materials about Islam and Muslim Americans and Arab Americans in the winter, instead of in April during Arab American Heritage Month. 
  • Most importantly, I think, I talk about the elephant in the room. I talk to students, especially our student workers, about how the library can better support students of color. I've said some version of "Librarianship is such a white profession, but I want the people behind the desk to reflect the people who come up to the desk" so often I've lost count. I'm the director, so things I say are weighted differently from other librarians - they're taken more seriously, whether I want them to be or not. I try to keep that in mind, ask questions, and then really listen to the answers. Even if my feelings get hurt, listening is even more important than asking the questions.

In the past, I've been guilty of trying to be the "white savior," but someone (Thank you!) pointed it out to me and I've mostly worked that instinct out of my system. I no longer assume I know how to fix every problem, especially one as complex as systemic and ingrained racism. I'm curious what kinds of efforts have been successful for others. Comment or respond on social media? Thanks!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Interview Post: Amy Watson


Amy Watson

Current job?

I am an information specialist for a Fortune 500 coatings & specialty chemicals company. Our information centers support our company globally, with a primary focus on our science & technology centers. My areas of research responsibility are coatings/paint, glass, and fiberglass. I always tell people that my job is to support our scientists from their first glimmer of a new idea, all the way through to patenting and commercialization.

How long have you been in the field?

I’ve worked in libraries since I was in high school, starting as a student page. My public library job continued while I was in college, and after undergrad I kind of floundered my way into library school. I finished my degree in 1997, and though my goal was academic reference, I have spent my entire professional career in special (nonprofit or corporate) libraries.

How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?

I split my week between two physical libraries, but in both cases my workspace is integrated into the library. Our company has a “clean desk policy,” so both of them are pretty tidy. They’re very clearly “my” space though – I have a lot of little nerdy knickknacks and I love calendars.

How do you organize your days?
I carry an amazing planner, and I’m queen of to-do lists. I keep a running tally of the searches I need to do, so that my scientists can pop by & see where they are in the queue. I try to make every Wednesday “admin day” and just sit down to crank out all of the administrative stuff I might let slide otherwise. I treat myself to a fancy coffee & a donut Wednesday mornings, and just slog my way through.

What do you spend most of your time doing?
I’d say that the bulk of my time is split between doing literature searches, predominantly looking for patents, and internal document management. We’re the administrators of our electronic laboratory notebook system, and I try to be on hand as much as possible to make that run as smoothly as I can.

What is a typical day like for you?
I’m the early shift at both of my sites, so I turn on the lights a little after seven most mornings. I try to plot out and stick to a weekly to-do list, but have to maintain some flexibility as people drop in with deadlines and emergencies. Since I split my time between two physical libraries it often feels like I have two Mondays every week. I am a firm believer in work/life balance, so I try incredibly hard to be back out the door by four.

What are you reading right now?
Mostly travel guides for Alaska and Vancouver. And maybe a few romance novels. 

What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
My dad once told me: “Never ask someone to do something that you’re unwilling to do yourself.”

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
I am the introvert to end all introverts, so I’m very surprised at how much I enjoy leading training sessions and teaching. It takes me a bit of time to be comfortable with my audience, and I lean very heavily on self-deprecating humor, but it’s something my boss pushed me out of my comfort zone to do. I enjoy getting to know our scientists through the sessions quite a bit.

Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?
Quagmire. Cornucopia. Plethora.

What is your least favorite word?
Maintenance. I can never spell it on the first try.

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
On good days I think about intellectual property law, or auditing. On bad days, long distance trucking, or miniature goat farming.

What profession would you never want to attempt?
Anything medical. God bless every single person who’s ever had to put up with me during a blood draw.

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
Freezing time or teleportation.

What are you most proud of in your career?
Before my dad retired from the military, he arranged for me to go on an educator’s flight in a KC-135 Stratotanker refueling plane. During the descent to the runway, I was able to sit in the cockpit and I noticed our company logo in the corner of the plane’s windshield. I’ve supported our aerospace scientists on some of their innovations, and I was so thrilled to see something that I’d researched in a real world application. Especially since it was something so personal to me. Our company motto is “We Protect and Beautify the World” and in that moment I thought, “yes, yes we do.”

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
I’m a big believer in recognition, and one of my favorite things to do each year is host a patent & trade secret luncheon. A few years ago a scientist came into the library and said “What time’s the luncheon today? I’d like the salmon!” and I realized that I’d completely forgotten to invite him. (Thank god for gossip networks...) Everything was fine, the restaurant was accommodating, and no one knew I’d forgotten him but him… but I was horrified. I still am. This event is something I pride myself on doing, something so important to me, and I’d dropped the ball.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Planning our next vacation. Reading, listening to music, hanging out with my husband and our cats.  Knitting. Obsessing about hockey. Napping like a champion.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Erin Leach. Amy Wainwright.

Amy tweets at @librarianamy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Innovation and Deep Pockets

I read an article last week that had me steaming by the time I was halfway through it. The article could be boiled down to one idea: academic libraries should look to public libraries for inspiration so we don't become relics. The author went on to point out what a lot of big schools (and just big schools) have been doing in this vein.

Me, after reading this article. (source)

I'm not going to name names, because this isn't the first (or second, or twentieth) time I've seen this phenomenon. "Look at this cool new thing," from someone at a big school is inevitably something either I or a colleague at another small school, or both, have been doing for a decade. And I'm getting tired of it. So tired that I had a mini Twitter rant after reading it:

original rant here

Let me toot my own horn for a bit here and tell you about things I've done that were inspired in part or in whole by public libraries:
  • Graphic novel collections (built two on my own and am building a third with help from my staff right now) and other popular reading materials collections;
  • Live action role playing gaming in the library; 
  • Therapy dogs for comfort during final exams;
  • A circulating board game collection (I haven't written a post about this yet, but I should.).

One other thing that I've done that I consider innovative was a cultural literacy talk series which featured topics like the biblical/literary/scientific origins of modern zombies and perspectives on abortion as seen through teen movies.

Further, I'm not the only librarian at a small academic library who is doing these kinds of things. Not by a lot. Graphic novel collections are widespread now, and board games collections are gaining traction. I've seen maker spaces in academic libraries. Arts & crafts nights. Dance parties. Video game tournaments. I could go on and on, but I won't.

Even all of that wouldn't bother me, though, if not for the cherry on the poop sundae of this phenomenon. The thing that bothers me the most is that people think I have no imagination because I can't spend a lot of money on things. Or, as Barbara Fister put it (so much better than I ever could):

Other small academic library people, share some things you've done in the comments!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

We Need to Do Something

As I sat down to write this week's post, I learned about the tragedy of the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. As of my typing this, there are 50 confirmed dead and 53 injured. Pulse, the location of this horrendous hate crime, was a gay club. It is Pride Month and it was Latin night. The victims of this completely preventable crime were there at a club that was likely a home away from home for them and on a night that was honoring and valuing the latin@s in the community. They should have been safe. This shouldn't keep happening. It just shouldn't. So if you're looking for a library oriented post this week, you'll have to wait until I publish the guest post on Thursday. I need to write about gun violence in this country.

I understand the implied fatalistic attitude in that tweet, but I can't give into it. This is not inevitable. Nobody should have to live in constant fear that they will be the random victim of a bullet, and we all do now. We all do. Schools aren't safe. Libraries aren't safe. Churches aren't safe. Night clubs. Movie theaters. Nowhere is safe. And we deserve to feel safe. We need to do something about this.

Please, if you live in the US, contact your elected officials. Here are a few links you can use:

I'm not going to argue with anyone about whether or not we need gun control, so I'm turning the comments off for this post. If you try to bully me on other posts or on Twitter or wherever you can find me, that won't work either. I'm also not going to post all the countless works that have been written about how guns just mean more gun violence, not safety. If you haven't come to believe that yet, nothing I link is going to convince you. Guns are too easy to obtain. That's it. Or, in the words of my friend, Donna Lanclos:

And here's one of the cutest gifs I've seen in a while as a way to thank you for taking action:


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Employee Copy Rights, by Michael Rodriguez


It’s a basic fact: you own what you create unless you sign it away. However, a lot of people don’t realize that just about every employer asks you to give up at least some of your rights, and just about every working librarian is an employee of some sort. As such, it behooves us to maximize our copy rights.

Works for Hire
“Works for hire” means intellectual property created as part of your job duties. The rule of thumb is that employers own brochures, social media posts, videos, slide decks, syllabi, and other content that you create for the marketing or teaching you are paid to do. This means that you might need permission to reuse these works if you change jobs. Note: your employer must identify the works-for-hire provision as a condition of employment, and you must sign off on this condition. Otherwise, your works are not for hire.

Unpaid Works
Generally, employers cannot claim ownership of works created while employees are off the clock. If you come home from your 9-to-5 and write a blog post, for example, then you own that blog post, no questions asked. But many employers claim ownership of materials created “using company resources.” So if you use your work computer while on lunch break, then you are using company resources. What if you’re operating your personal laptop but using the building’s Wi-Fi or electricity? In that case, I doubt a reasonable employer would claim ownership … but personal hotspots are more secure anyway.

Contracted Works
Are you an independent contractor? Then you own your intellectual property unless the contract says differently. For example, when I teach webinars for the State of Florida, I agree to grant the State nonexclusive distribution and reuse rights; however, my contract plainly states that I own and may reuse any materials (e.g., slide decks) created for the webinar.

Scholarly Works
Do you work for a college or university? Are you faculty or professional staff? If so, then you should own any peer-reviewed articles or other scholarly materials you create. Most universities exempt scholarship from the default works-for-hire policy, even if scholarly output is an expectation for employment. Notwithstanding this exemption, universities commonly claim the right to use your scholarship for their own purposes, such as marketing or internal research. And universities generally do lay claim to your syllabi and teaching materials. Don’t assume a blanket exemption exists for faculty.

Know your rights
Information is power. If you are already an employee, review your employer’s policies or talk to Human Resources. If you are a prospective employee, then ask to see a standard contract or the employee handbook. Most government agencies have this information publicly available online, so knowing your rights comes easily. But if you have to ask, be sure to ask nicely—throwing legalese at bosses or HR is a sure way to ruffle feathers.

Negotiate Better Rights
Try to negotiate better rights and write these terms into your contract before accepting a job or freelance gig. For the contentedly employed, promotions are an opportunity to renegotiate existing contracts. I know a former State of Nebraska employee who got all his output released under a Creative Commons license! Not all organizations are willing or able to grant such exceptions, but it usually doesn’t hurt to ask. At least try to retain moral rights, especially the right to have your intellectual property attributed to you. Or write language into the contract giving you distribution rights without ownership.

When you create something, it’s yours. As employees, let’s work to keep it that way.

Michael Rodriguez is an Electronic Resources Librarian at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. Previously he worked as E-Learning Librarian at Hodges University in Florida. Michael is an independent copyright trainer and consultant, a 2015 Library Journal Reviewer of the Year, and an avid hiker and cyclist. He tweets @topshelver.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

You Are Going To Be Okay: Things You Need To Know For Your New Job

A while back, I wrote a post of specific advice for a first time instruction librarian, but this week I want to expand that advice to be more inclusive of all brand new librarians:
  1. They hired you on purpose. Most professional positions get lots and lots and LOTS of applicants, so if you're the one who gets the job offer it is definitely a conscious effort on their part. I know this might seem ridiculous to emphasize, but so many people act like it was an accident that they got a job offer. Really, it wasn't a slip up by the hiring committee (or person).
  2. You don't have to interview anymore once they give you the job. This is a fault of mine. For the first year of any job, I keep trying to prove why I'm the right person. I'm not saying you should be arrogant, but you don't have to keep selling yourself to your boss and your coworkers. They met you during the interview process. They know you. It's your job.
  3. You are going to get overwhelmed. It's okay. It's normal. My first professional position was an amazing opportunity, but the interview process had felt too easy and - as I've already mentioned - I kept trying to interview for it even after they'd hired me and I'd started working. Anytime you start to feel overwhelmed, take lots of notes and ask lots of questions. Don't be afraid to ask questions again if you weren't clear on the answer. Nobody should expect you to hit the ground running.
  4. You are going to make mistakes. Unless you are a perfect superbeing (in which case, you're either lying or have a T.A.R.D.I.S. available), you're going to mess up. You'll forget to spellcheck an email that goes out to a big group, or be late to a meeting, or even *gasp* forget about an appointment. Don't make a habit of it, but don't hide from it. Own your mistakes and make amends and talk about how you'll move forward if it impacted a bunch of people. Make mistakes, but learn from them.
  5. You are going to be okay. When I was a brand new library director, I felt like I was drowning almost every day. Now that I've been doing it for a while, I can feel and see and hear the progress. You'll have the same thing. If you're lucky, you'll have mentors on the ground with you. (I'm sorry, but your boss can't really mentor you - a mentor needs to be a safe space where you can complain about your boss if necessary or debate when it's time to move up/on with your career.) If you don't have mentors there, reach out to local librarians or even people online. 

This isn't an all inclusive list of things you, in particular, will need to know. It *is* a list of things that every new librarian (or old librarian with a new job) needs to know. Don't you think? Other experienced librarians, anything to add?

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Just for Fun: Superheroes and Comics


I'm taking a Smithsonian class through EdX right now: "The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Culture." Every online class I've ever taken has a requisite "introduce yourself" post at the beginning of the class, but they are usually kind of boring. This one, though, was so much fun to think about and to write that I thought I'd share it with you all:

Why did I decide to enroll in Superheroes? 
Because there's always more to learn, even though I've taught graphic novels and comic books and presented about using them in the classroom multiple times. Also: Stan Lee is one of the teachers.

What am I most excited about learning about?
The creative process behind the comic books. Rhetorical analysis and historical analysis and looking at comics as modern fairy tales, I've done. (Love thinking about how the theories of Jack Zipes apply to the changes in the big name heroes.) I'm trying to push myself to be more creative, too, so this fits perfectly.

What am I hoping to achieve in the course?
I'm coming into this class with limited expectations. Learning? Growing? Fun? I am really just taking this class for poops and giggles, even though it will likely look nice on my CV.

Who is my favorite superhero? Why?
GAH! How can one pick? My favorite comic book character isn't a superhero in the traditional sense. Usagi Yojimbo is my boy, but that's no surprise. I adore samurai films (especially Kurosawa) but I'm also a sucker for fierce animals. For a more traditional "superhero" pick, it's probably Hellboy. Sure, he's a demon, but he's always seemed more "real" to me than so many others. Also, Mike Mignola's art style resonates with me. There's a newer character of whom I'm fond but I don't know her as well yet: Zephyr (Faith Herbert). It's an oft heard refrain, but representation really matters. Seeing a rad fatty flying? Awesome.

Who are my all-time top 5 favorite superheroes? What is my favorite comic for each?
I don't like typical superheroes, but since I already discussed my real favorites above, I'm going to list 5 comics or graphic novels that I love that have mainstream superheroes:
  • Batman in "Library of Souls." I'm a librarian, so anything library-esque catches my attention. And in this book, Batman has one of the most groaningly awful good lines I've ever seen: "He pulled out a Saturday Night Special. Too bad it was Friday night." 
  • Any of the animal cyborgs in WE3 by Grant Morrison, but the bunny most of all. Using animals to show us our own mortality is brilliant, and the rabbit was perhaps the bravest of the group.
  • Superman in The Wake by Neil Gaiman. That cracked, although not broken, fourth wall moment when he and Batman talk about nightmares where they are really actors playing themselves in a television show...? That moment has always stuck with me, and creative moments that stick feel like Art instead of art. 
  • Death at any point in "The Sandman" series, but especially in The Kindly Ones when she comes to take her brother. Her kind but absolute honesty is so different from all of her siblings, and her ability to find joy in her life is inspiring. 
  • And I know I promised to stick to traditional superheroes, but I can't not mention one of my newest favorite characters: Lying Cat. She may only be a supporting character in the plot of "Saga," but she feels to me like the voice of the series.

Who are some of my favorite authors and illustrators? Evan Dorkin, for sure. LOVE Beasts of BurdenBryan Talbot, too. His storytelling ability slays me. Scott McCloud. His ability to teach by demonstrating in his works is amazing. Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba - I am always happy when I read their books. I don't even care what the story lines are, I know I'm going to love it. Gene Luen Yang (I don't remember this, but I've been told I squeaked when I met him in person). He's another artist/author with amazing storytelling skills. Jill Thompson... I was introduced to her drawing style in "The Sandman" series and try to follow her wherever she goes. Ursula Vernon. I wish I could live inside her art sometimes - so beautifully surreal. I could go on and on and on.

How do I engage with other comic fans in your local community and/or online?
I mostly don't engage in the local community, but I do go to the tiny comic con they have in my city every year. This year I'll even be presenting! On a panel with an English professor (at the college where I work) and an English teacher (at a local high school) about integrating comics into the curriculum. Online, I chat with friends and follow my favorite publishers (Dark Horse, Fantagraphics, Image) on Twitter so I can keep up with what's new.

So how about you?