Thursday, July 27, 2017

Interview Post: Ginger Williams



Ginger H. Williams (there’s another Ginger Williams librarian, so the H is kinda important I guess.)

Current job?

Instruction & Reference Librarian at Reed Library, Fort Lewis College.

How long have you been in the field?

As a librarian, 6 years. But I started my first staff job in a library 12 years ago.

How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?

It’s in the front hallway of the library building. I get a window that opens and looks out on the mountains! The ceiling is about 15’ high! I just rotated my desk 90 degrees to keep things fresh. If I really need to focus, sometimes I’ll close the blinds, close my door, and turn on some Philip Glass. I also have a small cadre of dead or dying plants. Also I am a nester, so there are plenty of personal items. If I’m being honest, there are usually a smattering of dirty coffee mugs around, too. Once I get a critical mass I wash them all in a batch.

How do you organize your days?

Parts of my day are typically blocked off with required duties (meetings, reference desk, chat reference, instruction). I plan the rest of my time based on looming deadlines, level of importance, what I can complete given the amount of time I have, and what needs to be done individually vs. collaboratively.

What do you spend most of your time doing?
Generally, I have a pretty good balance of short-term and long-term projects going. I can use small chunks of time to get something done that came up in a meeting, prepare interview questions for a search committee, read an article about instruction that comes across my radar, etc. Then when I have a few hours where I get down to long-term projects, and right now that’s planning and recording a series of tutorials for a flipped-classroom information literacy instruction model.
What is a typical day like for you?
When I first get to work, usually before 8am, I prefer to start my day by reading emails, checking in on the librarian universe online, pondering the mysteries of the universe, and drinking coffee. That’s what I’m actively doing (time permitting), and passively I’m thinking about what my priorities for that day will be. I look at my schedule, look at my to-do list, and think about what can fit when. I spend a lot of time with the public and a lot of time in meetings with my colleagues.
What are you reading right now?
I just started Yes, And by Kelly Leonard. Stand-up has always really intrigued me. This particular book was recommended in a recent webinar (“Movin’ On Up” from the Carterette Series). I also enjoy a good quick read, and I just read The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman on my way to/from Los Angeles for a U2 concert. Coming from a small town I always have to take connecting flights, so it’s important to have some escapist reading handy!
What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
To ban the phrase “that’s not my job” from my lexicon. It’s 100% the wrong attitude to have, first of all. If something needs doing, maybe I’m not the person who’s “supposed” to do it, but if I can I will. That’s what being an adult and a good team member means. Second, trying new things is how you get experience. If it’s the kind of thing that’s going to become a new job duty, think about if you have time to give it a try and consider what you can gain from that experience. I’ve done so many interesting things and learned so much by trying things that weren’t really my job to do.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
Assessment is something I didn’t see coming before I became a librarian, but I’m totally committed to it. I’ve taken assessment classes; done the ACRL Immersion Program and I’ve really developed an appreciation for why we need to do it and why we should WANT to do it, too. Buy in for assessment can be challenging, but I try to help colleagues see what our users can gain from us performing the assessment and making improvements.

Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?

What is your least favorite word?

*I don’t really have [most/least] favorite things, but these are concepts that I like/don’t like.

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
I could have been a professional violist. I do make money playing viola, though, so maybe I am? (I had a recording session the night I wrote the first draft of this, actually!) I’d be interested in trying that full-time if I could go back and talk to 19-year old Ginger about her practicing regimen . Otherwise: chef, district attorney, meteorologist, psychiatrist, or ballerina.

What profession would you never want to attempt?
Cake decorating; I’m a walking Pinterest-fail in that arena. And I couldn’t handle anything that deals with blood and guts.

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
I’m an extremely empathetic person, and because of that, I wish I had the ability to share confidence and love with people when I know they need it. I feel their fear and anxiety and a superpower would come in really handy for helping them.

What are you most proud of in your career?
My confidence and adaptability.

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
We all make mistakes. Looking back, I think mine are usually when I let my emotions get to me. One time my library was voting on whether or not to recommend hiring a certain candidate. I had such a bad feeling about them after a very, very strange interview that I made a show of lowering my hand (because hand raising showed support). I was younger then, and I can say now that I was acting like a complete idiot, and it embarrasses me. Since then I’ve certainly learned that there are more constructive ways to express my thoughts and feelings.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
I’m fortunate to live somewhere with astounding natural beauty, so I try to be outdoors whenever I’m able. As a mother of small children, that often means playing at a park. I’m an active violist, too, and enjoy playing chamber music, doing recording sessions, and playing with our local symphony.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Michelle MilletCarla HaydenRyan Otto, and Michelle Demeter @ FSU.

Ginger Williams is on Twitter as @gingerhwilliams. This is the third time she's written for Letters to a Young Librarian. The first was "You Don’t Have to Do All the Things to be an Awesome Librarian. Really." and after that she wrote "You Don’t Have to Do All the Things to be an Awesome Librarian. Really. The Sequel."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

When Opportunity Knocks, or A Young Librarian’s Guide to Community College Librarianship, by Monique K. Clark

If you decide to make the leap, you might discover that a community college library is  the place for you. They combine the best of academic and public libraries, yet offer a unique environment that reflect value we hold dear as librarians. You never know what each day might bring and which one of your awesome talents might be called into action to help a patron, solve a problem, or come up with ideas to improve your library, your college, and ultimately, your community.

If you’re just starting your career as a librarian or you’re thinking of making a change, community college libraries might be the place for you. Community colleges address social issues that librarians support such as diversity, inclusion, and open access. They provide access to education for people of all backgrounds by offering classes that people need to meet their lifelong learning needs. As a result, community colleges tend to be very diverse in terms of the social, economic, racial, educational, and national background of the students and staff. However, this also means that community college libraries face unique challenges in meeting patron needs and supporting the institution's mission-- for example, ideas and strategies that work well at a four year college library or a public library won’t always be successful at a community college library. Librarians who thrive in a two-year setting must learn or strengthen skills that will help them serve our patrons and contribute to the college’s mission--attributes which can be useful in other contexts. Community college libraries are an excellent place for new librarians to develop skills such as teaching, collaboration, and management.

Although I’m no longer at one, it was a great way for me to start my career - even though it was mostly by accident. I didn’t initially plan to work at a community college, but like most people nearing the end of library school, I needed a job to pay the bills and I was lucky enough to land a full-time library specialist position at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) one month before graduation. Six months later, the library director encouraged me to apply for a library technology specialist position that had become vacant due to a promotion. I worked as a technology specialist for nearly three years and then I applied for and received a job offer for a campus library manager position at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, NC. The knowledge and skills that I gained at both places are integral to my work at a public university and I learned to keep an open mind when new opportunities become available.

The community college environment offers many opportunities to learn new skills and collaborate with people within and outside of the library. Community colleges libraries are insanely busy in the fall, slightly less so in the spring, and even slower in the summer. During the academic year, all hands are on deck which means that you may have shifts at both the reference and circulation desk (depending on your library’s policies) or you may be asked to do a variety of tasks such as shelf reading, selecting materials to purchase, teaching a one-shot class, fixing uncooperative printers, or serving on a committee within the library or elsewhere. Flexibility, a willingness to pitch in where needed, and a great deal of patience are essential to the overall function of a library; it’s also a great way to learn about other library roles and to gain skills in those areas. Committee work can offer another perspective on the library and its relationship to the parent institution. For instance, hiring committees aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but as a result of volunteering for so many committees, I learned a lot about applying for jobs, interviewing, hiring, and institutional values.   

In community college libraries, the summer is an ideal time to work on new or existing projects, do committee work, try new ideas, or engage in professional development activities such as attending conferences or taking classes. At NOVA, we piloted a single service point for reference and circulation interactions, something that couldn’t have happened during the academic year due to heavy foot traffic in the library. At CPCC, I co-chaired a strategic planning subcommittee which allowed me to work with my colleagues in the library and other departments to meet student needs, promote the library as place of learning and collaboration, and contribute to institutional success. If career progression is your goal, taking on projects and actively participating in committee work can be a good way to showcase your talents and demonstrate your value to the library.

Working at a community college can sometimes lead you to unexpected places. I told myself that there were certain things I would never do, but ended up doing them anyway thanks to working at a community college. I remember a comment I made to the library director at NOVA about how I would never want to be a manager. A year or so after having that conversation, I ended up applying to (and being selected for) a position at another community college that involved managing a small regional campus library and two part-time employees. Being open to taking on new responsibilities can be the push you need to challenge yourself and to flourish as a librarian.

Monique Clark is currently a reference and instruction librarian at the University of Baltimore. Prior to that, she spent five years working at two large community colleges on the East Coast. She can be found on Twitter at @wizardinglib.

Editor's note: this post presents one person's experience with working in community colleges. For other people, community colleges are their end goal. Personally, I recently moved from a small, liberal arts college to a community college. The point of this post is to encourage librarians new to the field to be open to all opportunities.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Letter From a New Job

This is the beginning of my third week at my new job and wow I'm overwhelmed. But that's as it should be - if I weren't overwhelmed it would be a sign that I wasn't paying attention. I joked about it on Twitter at the end of my first week:

I still feel that way, for the most part - just a little less brain fried. One of the benefits of feeling overwhelmed is that it's making me go slow. There are lots of tired clichés attached to new jobs, but one of my favorites is that it's a marathon not a spring. I have a lot to do and I need to give myself the time to do it. Another benefit is that going slow gives me time to absorb and really think about things like the ramifications of our collection development practices and how we staff the circulation desk. Going slow also gives the staff time to get to know me and (I hope) trust me, so that if and when I do make changes, they'll realize the change is coming from a place of understanding the way the library has run up until now.

Another way the "marathon and not a spring"cliché plays out is that things take time. As long as you think it's going to take - even if you're really pessimistic and/or circumspect - it will probably take longer. In my first director position, it took me three years to finally realize one of my earliest ideas: getting a link to the library in the top navigation on the school's website. Sure, somethings came quickly, but it's my feeling that you should count on things taking forever long and making promises accordingly. Going slow allows me to have the energy to keep working on projects.

Despite my expectations that things will take forever, I'm trying to get myself up and running as quickly as possible - and a lot of my expectations have been crammed into my first three months because of the book I'm using to guide myself through onboarding: The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, Updated and Expanded. This book was my pathfinder the first time I was a director and it did not steer me wrong at all. In fact, the biggest mistakes I made at my last job were when I ignored the books' advice. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It's especially helpful if you are taking on a leadership position for the first time, but I know it helps anyone in a new job.

And that's me - a new job. Still has that new job smell! My biggest goal right now is what I'm calling the Three Ps: People, Processes, and Projects. I've started by trying to learn the 3 Ps of the library. I'm sitting down with every single person who works for my department and am discussing things like how often they want to meet with me and where they see opportunities for the department. Also on the agenda is learning about how we handle purchases and birthdays and information sharing and... and... and... Intermingled with those is learning about ongoing and upcoming projects - we're migrating to a new version of our OPAC/LMS soon; and we have to do something called a Functional Area Review; and we're hiring a part time reference librarian; and so on. I'm hoping for a few easy and early wins, so I can build momentum and start to give more back to the institution than they are giving me.

I know this post is somewhat disjointed, but that's what being new in an administrative position is like - so many things to learn and think and do all at once. This means self-care is even more important. The impulse to Get. Stuff. Done., and at any cost, is strong. But I'm making myself take lunch pretty much every day (although my lunch hour today got eaten up with a visit to the DMV). I'm trying to make local friends - had lunch with the director of the public library in town, using, and socializing with people I knew before moving up here. I asked about and got a mentor who has worked at my new college for a while. I've also reached out to people I know who are directors at SUNY schools and other community colleges - including one person who's recently made the same transition from liberal arts to community college! - to make sure I have people who can help with the professional self care.

More than anything else, I know I need to be patient with myself. And I know I got this.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Unpacking to Move, by Angela Galvan

“Just move for a job” is advice The Profession enjoys doling out from positions of relative stability, a living wage, a healthy body and mind, and an established support system. As an MLIS student in Columbus, Ohio, I heard it from day one of my program: if you want a career you’re going to have to move away.

I have some experience with this.

Back in 2009 I fled a small town in southern Oregon for Columbus, Ohio, with two bags and only the clothes on my back to move in with people I’d met over Craigslist. What the Craigslist ad couldn’t have told me was I’d managed to install myself in a group of friends with no less than five librarians. Again, the job market in Ohio is a little saturated with MLIS holders. They convinced me librarianship was a good fit for someone with the combination of “curious about information and how it works” and “professional boxer” which is to say I used to be in the service industry.

I was happy in Columbus for years. I had a community, a mentor who was the big brother I never knew I needed, and a boss I could communicate with exclusively in emoji. I got Midwest winter bragging rights by walking to work during the vortex. All of this would change when I started getting campus visits out of state.

I eventually accepted a position at a college town in New York with Population: Some Folks. This was a Big Fancy Librarian Job, the thing we’d hoped would come. My partner would follow me in spring and I would learn to drive—a remnant from my Portland upbringing—and we were headed for a future with Pinterest boards until we weren’t anymore.

The everyday of my personal life was hit by a landslide. I could recognize some of the world I inhabited, but it was now fundamentally different. I lived alone with the cat who was not outpacing crawly things, in a shoebox apartment where I made soap and taught myself guitar until I lost sensation in my fingertips. Something about the fret action. The dream of gentrification without a surrounding city.

I formed an armistice pact with the spiders, who became confident, gun slinging assassins in the increasingly rich fantasy life my brain produced to deal with isolation. The payroll spider who lives in the sparse kitchen cupboard is named Perry. He has an eye patch and smokes. Worse, I couldn’t drive and the only school available to remedy the issue closed. A creepy clown allegedly appeared near campus and I became convinced I was living in the lite version of a Stephen King novel without a fun curiosity shop. Unable to leave town under my own power, I threw myself into my new job for a distraction. This kind of worked until I went home and there was nothing to do but unpack boxes for a life that felt distant to the point of invoking dig markers, stakes, and string. Most of my carefully packed possessions went to Goodwill. I spent many hours learning silence. Stillness felt uncomfortable for me after such a long period of searching, applying, and moving.

If I had the choice I would still move, though I can’t say I would have picked a rural area without addressing the mobility problem. While work/life balance in reality means periods of time where work takes priority, being a whole person who isn’t consumed by my job makes me a better librarian.

If you’re looking to move, here are some things to consider I haven’t seen in the usual discussions of relocation: 

Practical issues 
  • Will you or the people you care for have access to adequate healthcare? If your insurance is good but your nearest specialist is hours away, is that going to work?
  • Can you function if there isn’t public transit?
  • What is the political climate like? Are there “bathroom bills” and similar in the legislature?
  • What workplace protections exist at this employer? What about the state?
  • If the life you’re imagining vanishes tomorrow, how will you cope?
  • Does the employer offer relocation assistance? This is something you should ask about if you receive an offer. Make sure you understand what is and is not covered.
  • Is there a long delay between your hire date and first paycheck?
  • What is the rental market like? Many of the leases in Small Town New York are on the academic year which makes housing a challenge.
  • Where do the rest of the library people live? If you’re rural, is everyone commuting or do employees live in town?

Finding your people

Librarians—as most service/helping professions do—tend to gain significant swatches of their identity through work so while it’s tempting to lean hardest on coworkers for emotional labor and support, there’s a whole host of other things to try. Many of these are from the advice blog Captain Awkward:
  • Volunteer.
  • Take a class that isn’t academic. Spending all day looking at a screen or teaching sometimes means recovery is elsewhere, often in physical activity or making stuff.
  • Find a local meetup for a hobby you enjoy.
  • Join a low pressure recreational team.
  • Find gamers and start a town-wide version of Humans versus Zombies.
  • Be part of a virtual community you’re already familiar with or find a new one. This could range from a Twitter chat to online games.
  • Join a community choir. Singers are often like librarians in that they are extroverted in specific situations. Choir practice is one of those.
  • Attend town meetings and city council events.
  • Go to trivia nights. You don’t have to partake of alcohol if that’s not your thing and most teams will be delighted to have you.
  • Try a Brand New Thing! 

In the absence of people, a critter helps. Here’s mine:

It’s hard to know what a place is really like until you’re living there. It’s hard to know a job until you’re in the minutia of things, first encounters with ‘other duties as assigned’ or have a true understanding of the workplace culture from a campus visit. Moving feels final because of how exhausting it is under the best conditions. Adjusting after a move like this requires time, patience, and most of all kindness. Feel the feelings. Hug the animal, person, or thing.

What do you wish you’d known when you moved? Share in the comments!

Angela Galvan is the Digital Resources & Systems Librarian at State University of New York, Geneseo. She tweets at @panoptigoth.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Net Neutrality: Day of Action

Once again the neutrality of the internet is at risk, so a lot of people are trying to come together to try to do something about it. Here are two images that I've seen around that capture the whole of it:

And here's some language from Battle for the Net, because they've said it better than I ever could:

"On July 12, 2017, websites, Internet users, and online communities will come together to sound the alarm about the FCC’s attack on net neutrality. Learn how you can join the protest and spread the word at

"Right now, new FCC Chairman and former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai has a plan to destroy net neutrality and give big cable companies immense control over what we see and do online. If they get their way, the FCC will give companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T control over what we can see and do on the Internet, with the power to slow down or block websites and charge apps and sites extra fees to reach an audience.

"If we lose net neutrality, we could soon face an Internet where some of your favorite websites are forced into a slow lane online, while deep-pocketed companies who can afford expensive new 'prioritization' fees have special fast lane access to Internet users – tilting the playing field in their favor.

"But on July 12th, the Internet will come together to stop them. Websites, Internet users, and online communities will stand tall, and sound the alarm about the FCC’s attack on net neutrality.
The Battle for the Net campaign will provide tools for everyone to make it super easy for your friends, family, followers to take action. From the SOPA blackout to the Internet Slowdown, we've shown time and time again that when the Internet comes together, we can stop censorship and corruption. Now, we have to do it again!"

Learn more and join the action here:

This is too important. I know there have been so very many calls for action lately - 45 and the rest of the kleptocrats have made it so we have to fight for our lives almost every day - but this idea of net neutrality underpins all our other fights. Please join. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Just for Fun: Nothing More Hazardous to My Health Than Boredom

There's something so compelling about the show Elementary. It's not as quotable as other shows I've discussed on here, but then again it's not populated by archetypes and stereotypes. As much as I adore every other television show I've discussed on LtaYL, there's just a bit more when it comes to Elementary. Normally I try to avoid discussing specifics because I'm trying to get you to watch a show with me, but when it comes to this particular show I can't make any promises. Basically, what I'm saying is spoilers abound.

So here's your last chance to turn around, leave the post, and avoid having the show spoiled.

Still with me?

Okay then...

The first thing that I love about this show is how real everyone feels - even the "bad" guys, but especially the "good" guys. (And yes, I used those quotation marks on purpose: I do mean "so called bad guys" and "so called good guys," since nobody is purely one or the other.) Kitty Winter is damaged by what happened to her, but she is more than that damage. Marcus Bell takes a very very long time to forgive Sherlock for getting shot. And Sherlock's relapse into drug addiction... Also there's the fact that people grow and change and evolve. Maybe not Sherlock himself, because he's frighteningly brilliant (the quote in the title is something he says), but everyone else feels like someone you know or could know.

Next, I love how perfectly Sherlock it is. Not that I've read every Conan Doyle story in existence, but I've read enough to love how this series (like most Sherlock-based series) plays with the original stories. Of course, Elementary avoids the Anglo-centric angries that were attendant upon Conan Doyle's writing... which makes it even better.

Then there's Aidan Quinn. I had such a crush on him when I was younger (Desperately Seeking Susan, anyone?) and he's aged nicely. He's a pretty pretty man, and his acting is exceptional. I know there's a real Lestrade in this series, someone who Sherlock left back in London who occasionally comes back into his life, but Captain Thomas Gregson is fantastic in the Lestrade role. And did I mention how pretty I think the actor is? Oh, those eyes...

Next? The gender flipping of crucial roles. Instead of Professor James Moriarty, we get Jamie Moriarty (who is also Irene Adler?!?!) the art restoration specialist. Instead of Dr. John Watson, we get Dr. Joan Watson - both still veterans of a sort, only Joan is a veteran of the war on drugs. It's the kind of twist I like to think Conan Doyle might have liked, if he hadn't been so busy hating Mormons.

Finally, speaking of Joan Watson, can we talk about how amazing Lucy Liu is in this? I've always liked whatever she's done, but with Elementary, I finally saw what an amazing actor she is. Sure, I've had a bit of a crush on her since Kill Bill, but her performance in this series just blew me away. Plus, her character kicks ass.

And one last word before I ask you what you love about this show: please don't say anything if it's about the last three episodes of the most recent season. I haven't watched them yet, so... no spoilers for me.

So, if you've read this far... what do you love about Elementary?