6 Library Blogs I Read: You’ll Never Guess Why

I’m sure that regular library-type readers of this blog have their own list of library blogs they read. This is an abbreviated version of my list. It is by no means comprehensive (there are over 50 library blogs in my feedly right now). The content of these blogs are the main reason I”m interested in them, but there’s something a little special about each one beyond solely the content that’s got me hooked.

Blog title
The special something.

  1. Letters to a Young Librarian
    This is the blog that got me back into writing earlier this year. Jessica Olin is the primary author and editor of this blog. New posts come out twice weekly, mostly focused on pieces of advice that folks newer to the profession (or to certain roles in the profession) might find useful. 
    Writing as practice.
  2. LibraryProject.info
    This is the newest blog on my radar (start date October 2014). Michael Perry aims to share knowledge about project management specifically as it relates to libraries. I’m always on the lookout for good information about project management and this blog fills a void in our profession.
    Finding a voice.

  3. Library Lost and Found
    A group blog from mainly public and school librarians who are leaders of many sorts (managers, directors, leaders within their areas of the profession or their organization), I find this compelling as a director, middle manager, and someone who constantly enjoys taking on new leadership challenges within (but not so often outside) of my organization.
    Beginner’s mind.
  4. hls: hack library school
    Another group blog, this time from people in library school, I like reading this blog to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the places where our newest colleagues are earning their credentials, especially since I’ve not been in those spaces for 20 years now. (Gasp. And gag. I aged.) This blog has an awesome cast of alumni, along with a wide variety of current authors. Nicely done, hls, keeping it fresh.
    Continually shifting perspectives.

  5. Pegasus Librarian
    Iris Jastram has been dropping total gems in this blog since 2006. Her position in the profession is very similar to mine: she’s an academic librarian at a small, primarily residential, selective liberal arts college. The things she thinks and the way she reflects on those things in written form have helped me and my colleagues become significantly better at working with our students and faculty over many years.
    Inspiring reflection and improving practice.

  6. Constructive Summer: Building the Unified Library Scene
    Rachel Fleming and Erin Leach co-author this blog, which aims to break down barriers and build relationships between the various folks in various parts of libraries. Unification FTW!
    Working together.

So that’s my list of some of the blogs I’m reading these days that have a little something special about them. What blogs are you reading that you’d like more people to pay attention to? And why?

Creative Time

At MPOW, we have a mandate from our CIO to spend 2 hours as week in “creative time.” Based in the idea of Google’s 20% time,  everyone in Library & Technology Services is required to spend 2 hours a week doing something outside of our normal day-to-day work. (Technically, I think it’s 5.7% time, not 20%. Still. It’s something.)

doge meme

There are a bunch of things about this idea that I find really awesome:

  1. Nothing is out of bounds, which lets people try all manner of things they might not ever consider in the course of the regular workweek.
  2. It creates a culture of risk-taking. Because we don’t have to actually PRODUCE anything from our 2 hours a week, other than learning, we can bite off more than we can chew, so to speak.
  3. It creates a sense of self-determination. No one is going to tell me what to do with my creative time. I get to decide what it should be, and if after doing it for a while I think my thing is dumb or useless, I can change it. And I don’t have to check with anyone that doing so is okay.

In previous years, I

  • learned a ton about altmetrics (which led to co-authoring a short article and blog post with LTS colleagues and a chemistry faculty member, as well as being on a panel at a local conference)
  • tried to root a Nook Color (that project failed pretty spectacularly; as it turns out, I bit off a bit more than I could chew, although I do want to go back and try it again this year)
  • went to a local library conference on working with large touch-screen computers (think the old-school Microsoft Surface tables)
  • plus a bunch of other smaller things….

This year I’m trying to focus my creative time efforts on exploring different methods of learning. To that end, I

  • took and passed a MOOC (Visualizing Japan 1850s-1930s: Westernization, Protest, Modernity) (online, asynchronous but time-bound learning)
  • re-acquainted myself with this blog, including resetting all my passwords, updating the backend software, downloading and configuring new plugins, etc. (online, self-directed learning)
  • plan on signing up for an (archived) online doodling course with Lisa Congdon through CreativeBug (online, asynchronous, not-time-bound learning with significant offline work)
  • create an object to print on our Makerbot (online and in-person learning, both synchronous and asynchronous learning)
  • plus whatever else strikes my fancy

If you had 2 hours a week to do “creative things” at work, what would you try? If you could determine a theme for your creative time, what might it be?

Then I Fell Down Another Research Rabbit Hole – Gov Docs Edition!

In the midst of a wild rainstorm Monday afternoon, my chat reference service “binged.”

– Hi! Are you available to answer a question right now?

– Yes, what can I help you with?

– I’m looking for the 1938 statistical supplement that goes along with the Social Security Bulletin.

And then, like Alice, down I went again.

Sadly, the patron was headed off to a meeting with a professor and couldn’t stay on chat for any follow-up questions. Tools I used to help me figure out what exactly she might be looking for included:

I was easily able to find the 1939 version of what I think the patron wants in HathiTrust, the Internet Archive, and my print local collection (although for some unknown reason the 1939-later editions aren’t shevled in the government documents collection, but in the regular collection.) Unfortunately, serials records for government documents in this time period are challenging to interpret at best and completely incomprehensible at worst, so what she asked me for and what I was able to find have somewhat different titles. And the agency was the Social Security Bureau then. And maybe she needed the annual report and not the yearbook or the supplement… But who knows? Maybe those things are all exactly the same, although knowing the federal government, not likely.

This question took me 90 minutes to work through. My colleagues who were on the desk with me at the time were extremely patient with my mutterings, rumblings, and rantings (our documents collection is organized in a completely non-standard way that makes no sense to me, someone who’s worked in 3 prior depository libraries). And in the end, I had to suggest to my patron that she would need to request the item through interlibrary loan. But I think I found the right record in WorldCat that will ensure she gets the thing she most likely needs. I hope.

It’s questions like this that remind me – again – just how awesome this job is.

I Fall Down a Research Rabbit Hole

rabbit sliding down a tube
Rabbit down a hole

Sometimes you get a research question that’s totally fascinating, and also totally a stumper. Last Thursday was that day for me. I decided to document how I approached my pre-work before meeting with the patron, and y’all. I am MESSY.

When I get a difficult question I tend to be totally non-methodical about digging in to it. Instead I range widely and wildly around potential sources. Google, Wikipedia, MPOW’s discovery layer, and any number of subject-specific databases are all open at any given moment; I jump around among them looking for themes, common terminology, or something that is going to help me help my patron find the sources that are going to help them formulate their argument.

I’ve often thought that there are 2 types of information professionals: the scientists and the artists. The scientists work deliberately and methodically; they develop hypotheses, gather data, inspect evidence, and draw conclusions. The artists are less methodical in their approach; they may put several colors of paint on a palette, use a bit of this, a bit of that, some here, some over there, step back and assess, and adjust on the fly. Repeat and repeat, and eventually artists end up with a painting. Both types of people get places, they just do it differently. (Mind you, I believe both types are creative, valuable, and necessary to the profession.) I’m definitely of the artistic bent in this regard.

Evidence of that? Tabs (non-paywalled) related to the question that were open in my browser include:

The Fashion Institute of Technology’s library’s list of databases related to the fashion industry, helped me identify WWD (Women’s Wear Daily) as another potential source of information for this question. SUPER FUN.

I get to do this for my job, y’all. Tomorrow it’ll be something different, no doubt, and that’s even more exciting.

Fessin’ Up: On Rejection

Lindsey over at Composition.al wrote a great post in April 2014 about rejection that resonated with me, so I wrote a long blog post about the ways in which I’ve been rejected through my career and in my personal life.

But before I hit “publish” on that post, I re-read it again… and had a slowly sinking feeling that if I published it, I would be a total asshole. Because when I think about my life, my career, I am incredibly privileged.

Librarianship is overwhelmingly dominated by cis, white women. I’m a cis, white woman. I may be part of a sexual minority but that alone – especially in Massachusetts, where I currently live – hasn’t hurt me professionally.

So yes, I’ve been rejected. But I’ve been rejected in ways that don’t cause me to question whether going into this profession was the right call or not; in ways that don’t threaten my sense of safety nor of self; in ways that don’t resonate with the challenges being faced by new professionals today, nor with professionals who don’t identify as a cis, white woman.

I sit in a place where I can look clinically at those rejections and not wonder if it’s something about ME that caused the rejections. And THAT is what made me pause last week, and made me re-write this entire post.

So I’m not posting that blog post on rejection. Because that smacks of “If I can do it, anyone can”-ism, which is total CRAP. Instead, I quietly acknowledge that my successes and my rejections are both strongly influenced by who I am and by how our world is set up to privilege that. And then I turn my attentions to trying to dismantle the structures that value lives more like mine over lives less like mine.