Otter: 2014 in Photos

Lest you think I’m unfairly fond of my small dog to the big dog’s detriment, I offer up this photo essay of my favorite goofy boy, Mr. Otter-pants.

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.

A blog by Megan A. Brooks