11/18/10

Shelf Check #469

Shelf Check 469

Some colleagues and I were admiring San José Public Library's new web site the other day. Then, yesterday, I came across the Librarian in Black's post about it, which included this shocking, wonderful information:

"*Every single staff member at SJPL has been asked and empowered to create blog posts for the new site. That means everyone. No limiting by classification, specialization, or degree-holding nonsense. We’re all smart. We all have things we know about and want to share with our library users. We currently have over 300 staff set up to create content and I couldn’t be happier.

*Content is not pre-moderated by any web staff. When staff click “Save,” it goes up. And rightly so.

*We offer commenting as a function on almost every part of our site, and user comments are not pre-moderated either. Again, rightly so."

Congrats to all who worked on the site, with extra kudos to SJPL's web librarian, Nate Hill, who the Librarian in Black credits with the design--it's fantastic (and, for the record, also splendid on an iPad). I love the non-policing policy and radical trust, too.

11/17/10

Serving Our GLBTQ Customers (link to PowerPoint)

I gave my first presentation ever to people older than high school age this morning!

Here are the slides: Serving Our GLBTQ Customers

11/15/10

Shelf Check #468

Shelf Check 468

11/12/10

11/8/10

Shelf Check #466

Shelf Check 466

11/5/10

Shelf Check #465

Shelf Check 465

11/4/10

Shelf Check #464

Shelf Check 464

11/3/10

Happy 11th, LISNews!

LISNews is 11!


Blogs, wikis, projects, and comics have hot and cold streaks and come and go. LISNews, not so much. The go-to library news site turned 11 yesterday. I don't know a librarian who doesn't read it daily. On more than one occasion I've learned about things happening in my own library neighborhood from LISNews before I've heard about them from a local source. Happy Birthday, LISNews, and thank you, LISNews regulars--and especially Blake--for all that you do to keep libraryfolk informed and entertained.

11/1/10

"Can you help me find my polling place?"

A 2008 rerun for U.S. election day eve:

Shelf Check #462

Shelf Check 462

10/28/10

The Social Physical Library: fostering connections & giving patrons a reason to come inside

[PROSE ALERT]

The fate of the library's physical space in a digital era often comes up in discussions of libraries' futures. At times, I've found that future physical space hard to visualize, outside of less shelves and neato computers and funky sleek study spaces, etc. (like Dave's fairly standard vision in the most recent strip). I've found it hard to imagine why people getting most of their books/movies/music/reference service through the library's digital branch will come into the library building, unless they don't have their own computers or are coming for storytime (a social experience I think folks will continue to find valuable for a longer while).

This morning, I thought of a reason patrons might come inside. A way to make a visit to the library full of potential for them every time they walk in the door. A "you never know what you might find" kind of a thing. A way to build community, foster local connections, empower our users to learn new things, and accomplish this all--perhaps most importantly, these days--on the cheap.

People love making online connections (Facebook, Twitter), but they want local connections, too--that's why we see Twitter apps to find local people to follow (and resulting tweet-ups), dating apps to let you know if someone single that might be a good match for you is in the same coffee shop as you right now, and to some degree, the success of Foursquare (where you can see who frequently visits the same physical spaces you do). But, while you can freely start chatting with someone local via Twitter, you don't usually feel as free to strike up a conversation with a stranger in physical space. We assume people are on social software sites/using social apps to be social, and it makes them easier to approach, especially if we see we have mutual interests. In person, we have no way of knowing if anyone else in the building is also a big China Mieville fan or also writes Modern Family fanfic or also wants to learn Tagalog, unless by some chance we both have the same phone, use the same apps, and are currently using those apps--and even then we have no way of knowing whether they'd like to talk to or work or study with someone else in person right now.

One of my library system's objectives is to serve as a gathering place. Our mission is to "nourish minds, change lives, and build community together." I know many libraries have similar missions. One way libraries strive to build community is by offering programs--lectures, YouTube viewing nights, open mic poetry readings. Folks come together and hang out with their neighbors with similar interests (if only passively, while  listening to a lecture in the same room together). The thing with events, though, is that people have to a)hear about them, usually in advance b)remember to come to them (if they're still in the mood), etc. They also c)usually require a significant amount of planning on the part of library staff, and perhaps even some money.

What if (in addition to these events) there were neat, social, community-building opportunities for patrons to engage in whenever they happened to step foot in the library? That didn't require planning on the library's part, or remembering on the patrons' part? That were targeted to their own individual interests? That fostered connections between them and their neighbors? That made stopping by the library just to see what's up in the building worthwhile, as opposed to only using the digital branch? That helped people to learn and to better use our resources and our spaces?

Here's what I'm thinking: a living, updated-in-real-time site (somewhat like Twitter or Foursquare in the way it works--and it would need IM capabilities built in), ideally displayed prominently on a large screen in the lobby/entrance, but workable even if it was just on the web via a link on the library's home page (that automatically loads when you use the library computers, and that wireless users can choose to load). The page's content:

Who's Here? (and what are they doing?)

The large prominent screen (almost like a flight status screen at an airport) would be nice because most of us are curious--even if we're just dashing in to the library, not logging on to a computer, we'd glance at the screen to check it out, then maybe find something we want to stay for. You'd automatically look at it when you walked in the door.

But, for cheapness, for budget-cut times, let's say it's just a site or page or "living bulletin board" or whatever would be the most apt word (it won't catch the eye of the dashers-in, but will still attract those who sit down and log in). In college libraries since way back when, there have been whiteboards or blackboards in the lobby where students can leave messages for their friends (I'm in study room A, 3rd floor). This digital page/board could also be a way to leave messages for friends, but, more importantly, it would provide a way to leave messages/invitations for strangers. Fellow patrons, but not necessarily even acquaintances yet.

Patrons can create user names and leave "statuses" if they're interested in connecting with other patrons in the library. You wouldn't log in if you didn't want to be bothered, or didn't want to let people to know you're in the library: you'd only use it if and when you wanted to.

I'm envisioning content like this:

member: burbuja
right now: working quietly, but interested in practicing my Spanish conversation skills. Message me if you are, too, and we can have an informal conversation circle

member: gwangai
right now: reading aloud to my kids in picture book area because we missed today's storytime. Here with your kids? Come on over and we can have our own spontaneous storytime--more the merrier!

member: oliogirl
right now: cramming 4 Moudry's chem midterm. If u r 2 and want a study buddy, holla

member: bellzy98
right now: anyone here have protractor and compass w/them that I could borrow for a few min? Msg me

member: jacksonp
right now: working on my blog about ham radio stuff. Feel free to contact if interested in blog/forming group


member: utherdoul
right now: chess in teen area, anyone?

member: newjillcity
right now: drafting biz plan for my potential new small business. would love to talk to anyone who's done this before or is a running a local small business, to share tips and strategies

member: elloyd74
right now: I bet I can beat you at Boggle


What excites me about this is that unlike, for ex., on Craigslist, you wouldn't have to look for someone to practice Spanish with, contact them, make an appointment and settle on a place, and then meet them there: you're already in the place--your library. Sure, there might not be anyone there that day that wants to practice Spanish. You might not find a connection every time. But some days there will be, or there might be someone who didn't know she wanted to practice her Spanish until she noticed that someone else in the library wanted to--the availability of the option might awaken the dormant or idle interest. Key words: spontaneity, serendipity, community.

I think this could work really well at academic libraries and busy publics, and it doesn't seem like it would be that hard to design and implement. What do you think? Has anyone heard of a library doing anything like this?

10/27/10

Shelf Check #460

Shelf Check 460
A Library Designed for the Post-Print Era (article at Fast Company's Co.Design)

10/26/10

10/21/10

Shelf Check #457

Shelf Check 457

10/16/10

Shelf Check #455

Shelf Check 455

10/3/10

My Video for the It Gets Better Project

[one more cross-post from Poesy Galore--then back to the usual :)]






(some images modified after borrowing from the generous

10/2/10

Being Visibly Queer-Friendly: Please Consider It

[cross-posted from Poesy Galore]

Six GLBTQ teen suicides were reported in the month of September. Six that we know of. Six that made the news.

I urge you, if you work with kids in a library or school or afterschool program or religious organization, to please consider wearing something (or posting something in your office, if kids visit you there) all the time that identifies you as GLBTQ-friendly. At 36, out since 18, I still feel a little lift (and gratitude) when I see a rainbow sticker on a car or posted in a shop window (or, for that matter, a queer magazine with all the other magazines in a library). It still makes a difference to me.

When I was 17, in 1992, a professor of mine wore a pro-GLBTQ button on his bag, and seeing it made my heart beat faster. I bought one and wore it (this was a button that simply said that the wearer supported GLBTQ rights--not that the wearer was GLBTQ) from my dorm room all the way to the bathroom. Then another girl opened the bathroom door, and I turned red and ripped it off before she’d even seen it, and buried it in a drawer back in my room, and even then worried that my roommate would find it when I was out of the room. Just conjuring up that moment for some weird reason makes me feel scared enough, now, to need to pee. I couldn’t wear the button yet (when I came out a year later, things went a bit too far the other way: I hardly had one piece of clothing that didn’t have some kind of queer slogan on it)—but it made a difference, however small, that someone I knew and respected—the professor—could wear it without blinking or even mentioning it, like it was perfectly normal.

I remember that dark swirling feeling I had in high school and the first year of college before I came out, the feeling that if people knew who I was that their stares would crumble my body to dust. I remember blushing a lot, and feeling my stomach sink a lot, and feeling hunted and baited by the few people (I think it was only a few) who suspected. I remember feeling ice cold when I walked by their lockers. I remember feeling like my sexuality was the source of their deepest amusement, their most hilarious joke among themselves. That they daily looked forward to that moment when I would pass by and they could make me pay for who I was, if only with their eyes and cruel, knowing grins.

I was never openly, loudly bullied, and I never had more than three or four people who made me feel bad. I’m trying to imagine what it feels like to have a huge portion of your school—including adults at your school—enjoy making you feel bad, ashamed, sick (that’s right--not just making you feel bad, but enjoying it, thriving on it, feeling a little thrill when you walk by or when they think of some new clever way to attack or hurt you). And then going home and having their intolerance follow you onto Facebook or Myspace or in texts to your phone. Bullying without borders.

As GLBTQ rights are slowly won, each generation of GLBTQ people tends to think that it's easier for the new one coming up. I know I've been guilty of thinking "Well, if I was 11 in 2010 instead of 1985, I'd have come out at 11." In 1985, I didn't even have a vocabulary to describe who I was--I honestly didn't know what "gay" or "lesbian" even meant. In 2010, most kids know what it means. And they see successful, out, unashamed GLBTQ folk, at least on TV. And maybe their schools have GSAs, though I’m sure some kids are afraid to attend meetings (I know I would’ve been—my siblings went to the same school. I might’ve been ready for a GSA, but I wasn’t ready for my family knowing I was interested in one). But perhaps there's a mistake in thinking this stuff makes it easier.

In addition to seeing Ellen and Kurt on Glee, today’s GLBTQ teens are also seeing GLBTQ rights discussed almost every day in the media. Eat breakfast. Wait to see if the country decides folks like you are allowed to be in the military. Pop a Diet Coke. See a photo of Fred Phelps picketing funerals with a “FAG BURN IN HELL” sign. Take a bus. See a campaign ad arguing that you should never be allowed to marry. Right at that moment when change seems to be accelerating--a biracial president! Gay marriage legal in Iowa!--is when we see a huge backlash against the change. People that were passively racist/homophobic/etc become actively so. People, goaded by anger and irresponsible politicians, somehow feel it's okay to make remarks they wouldn't have made before. Hatred in the air and on the airwaves trickles down to kids. Opinions get magnified into passions and crusades.

And there are parts of being a queer adolescent that, even when role models are available and rights are won, are humbling. So entrenched is the default assumption that everyone is straight that straight kids don't have to come out to their parents. And coming out, as long as GLBTQ folks are considered "lesser" (and discussions of sex between generations are considered taboo) in the U.S., isn't easy--even to accepting parents. For one, you usually know your orientation before you're ready for your parents to think of you as a sexual being. And when an 11-yr-old girl tells her parents she has a crush on a boy, they don't respond, "How can you know you're straight when you're only 11?" Queer 11-yr-olds are regularly told they can't possibly know who they are yet. Finally, as long as GLBTQ folks are considered lesser, you might have the feeling that you're disappointing your family, letting them down by being queer, giving them one more thing to have to "deal" with. This is not a great sensation to be running around with as a young teenager.

We can help young queer kids by knowing about things like the It Gets Better project, I'm From Driftwood, and The Trevor Project--and promoting them through posters or buttons or bumper stickers, so kids can see and learn about them without having to ask for them (which they might not be ready to do). We can also help by visibly wearing a button on our lanyards or bags that identifies us as queer-friendly. Kids will notice, even if they don't yet feel comfortable approaching you to talk about it. I wear a "Be Proud at Your Library" button on my lanyard that I whipped up at Zazzle. It costs $2.10 to get a button from Zazzle. They're easy to make. Consider making one--or customizing the one I've linked to (you can change text to "school" or whatever fits your situation)--and wearing it. You can also make shirts, stickers, posters, and more. Note: before buying anything from Zazzle, check at RetailMeNot for promotional coupon codes--Zazzle regularly offers them.

Why buttons and bumper stickers? I think it's extremely important to be visibly queer-friendly out in the world, especially in less metropolitan areas. Some kids aren't ready to attend GSA meetings, and some may even shy away from watching queer-friendly YouTube videos if it's on their home (or even a library) computer. Seeing a car pass by with a friendly sticker while your mom's driving you to your piano lesson doesn't require a kid to pursue anything: it just happens. And we need to reach (and not judge) kids who aren't ready to pursue anything, but may be comforted by seeing a queer-friendly face (or bumper).

Please consider making or buying and wearing or posting something that identifies you as a GLBTQ-friendly adult, and passing this post on or writing your own. We are needed.

9/28/10

9/27/10

Shelf Check #450

Shelf Check 450
FYI: In 2008, Jamie LaRue posted the contents of a letter he'd written in response to a patron's request that Uncle Bobby's Wedding be removed from the picture book area (it's cataloged as a picture book in LaRue's system). The letter is polite, well-considered, careful, concerned, solidly argued, and awesome. You can read it here.

9/24/10

Image Generators for Library Displays

I've been slogging through the hundreds of "saved to read/bookmark later" posts in my doomed Bloglines account and came across this faux newscast generator, which seems ideal for Banned Books Week (replace Dave & Jan with staff photo?):



Tuxpi [Photo Effect: Newscast]


We've used free online image generators from time to time at my branch to beef up ye olde 8 1/2" x 11" book display sign in the Lucite frame. This license plate generator helped for a display of Minnesota Book Award-winning books last Spring--


--and this highway sign maker for an audio book display in summer 2009:

The black top and bottom, "Traffic," and "It's better with audio" and were added in Picnik, a simple but quality (and free) online image editor. Some image generators automatically add a stamp with the generator's URL ("sign-generator.net," etc.), and you can crop them out quickly in Picnik.


Then there's the classic receipt maker--


--and the Magic 8-Ball Generator





















Public domain images make good sign inspiration, too. My genius coworker Marni (also responsible for our Eden Prairie Library by the Numbers Display, which was great for bringing home what the library accomplishes during a budget crisis) used some in my favorite book display signs from this year:





---

More image generator sources: The Generator Blog, Custom Sign Generator (lots of good ones, lots more not-so-good ones), ACME Laboratories, Image Chef (small, don't enlarge well), RedKid

9/10/10

Shelf Check #446

Shelf Check 446
(click to hear Hole's "Violet")

9/9/10

9/8/10

"Multicultural": not a genre. Again.

Still no new toon--just feeling kind of brain-beat this week. But this rerun is for my colleague JC, who was hit hard with requests for "multicultural books" today (first week of high school in our town):

Shelf Check 260


[Says JC: "To all the teachers out there sending their students to the public library for a book, please, for the love of God, "multi-cultural" is NOT a genre. What is multi-cultural to me is someone else's culture and to call it multi-cultural is insulting. Be specific! To the white kid, the East Indian kid and the Somali kid all standing in front of me, I say what? 3 books on Inuits, here you go."]

9/4/10

Response to "The Master’s Degree Misperception, Ctd."

Via Twitter, Andy Woodworth directed me to his response to my response to The Master's Degree Misperception, which I respond to now below. Tomorrow: maybe a comic!


----

I understand what Andy was getting at in discussing image--how librarians are perceived. I think "I didn't go to library school to end up having to [fill in the blank]" is never a good way to phrase it. No one goes through pregnancy to end up having to clean up baby puke, but it happens. A lot. It's not the reason you had a baby, but it's part of the job, especially if you're short-staffed. I think the impression some people have that "librarian" is not a job you need a master's for, though, might come less from having witnessed a librarian help with a copier, and more from the general public just having no idea what librarians do, especially NOW--now that there are computers and databases and more than just books and quiet. There is still a widespread assumption that librarians get to read books at work, and that libraries are peaceful places to work.

Folks having no idea what librarians do is similar to the image problem I think we work harder and focus more on, which is folks having no idea what libraries offer. We market our programs and offerings and there are still people coming into libraries wondering how much a library card costs, or shocked that our computer classes are free, or that with a library card they can access thousands of full-text journals and magazines from home. We do our best to publicize what we offer. And, if it bothers us that folks think librarians don't need degrees, than it is on us to publicize the degreed-level work we do.

Unfortunately, the general public is not as likely as we are to spend hours at the Library Day in the Life wiki reading up on all the different ways to be a librarian and all the different projects on which librarians work. So how do we publicize what we do?

----

That's a question I need to think about more. The other I think Andy's asking is, "What should degreed librarians be doing?" What should their work days look like, etc. If you're a degreed librarian and don't think you should be working the ref desk, helping with copiers, etc., then the ideal thing to do is to find a job where that's not required of you. A large number (a majority?) of the folks who participate in Library Day in the Life are not working ref desks, so we know these positions exist (though we also know that, right now, both these AND ref desk positions are hard to find).

Andy got two different kinds of angry response yesterday (and some happy and relieved responses, too). There was my kind: I felt it was implied that having an MLS automatically, by definition, makes one better equipped to perform certain tasks--and makes one more deserving of opportunities to perform them. The latter (deserving) I can swallow more easily. The first I disagree with (key words: automatically, by definition).

Others were angry because they felt like Andy was saying that some work was beneath him (really, beneath degreed librarians, but it read kind of personally), but not beneath them (this was not what bothered me about the post). If it had been phrased, "I wish my daily work was more challenging, and more related to what I studied," it probably wouldn't have hit folks the way it did. If it had been phrased, "I need my daily work to be more challenging, and more related to what I studied," then more people may have been moved to respond with practical advice, which sounds to me like what he may have wanted: "What should we [the degreed] do?" It's a good question. I think it is valuable to have degreed librarians working the ref desk, but yes, many inquiries do not entail challenging work. To me, that's just part of the job. I imagine that rote, non-intellectually-engaging tasks make up part of the days of neurosurgeons, architects, college professors, and so on, too. I think Andy is saying that maybe that shouldn't be part of the job if you have an MLS--that it would be great if the ref desk had the equivalent of Gmail's new Priority inbox, and filtered and forwarded the less quotidian tasks to the degreed librarian. The trouble to patrons is that having someone say, "Let me call a librarian out to work with you" slows down the transaction and makes it less seamless. The librarian has to trundle out from the back room where s/he has been working on more intellectual stuff, the patron has to restate his or her inquiry, etc. Maybe this should be the case. Andy argues that it hurts the image of librarians when librarians are seen helping with copiers instead of on inquiries like these, and this approach would make librarians seem more "special," somehow. It does seem nonsensical, though--although I know some unions require it--to call a librarian out if the paraprofessional on the desk is perfectly capable of fielding even the more complicated inquiries. If you've got knowledgeable paraprofessionals, you (the librarian) might never or only very rarely be called out to the desk (perhaps about as often as one turns to a print reference source). That presents its own image problem: for who are you then? If you're not out there often, you know less about the needs of the community, and they know even less about what you do and how you do it. They might even (shudder!) start to think of the paraprofessionals they see daily, and who after all can answer 98% of their questions, as the branch's "librarians."

It could be that the library jobs that allow one to use one's "master's degree brain" are ones that just don't involve working with the public that much. What to do if you want to use that brain but DO have to work with the public that much? I guess, try to bring an ok attitude to the mundane stuff (so you don't feel miserable), and think and write and design and implement and present and, also, do what Andy's already doing: engaging that brain not just at a local branch level, but on an international stage like this internet of ours. If you are not given opportunities to shine and think hard at work, you can make them to shine and think hard online, and this might help somewhat in terms of wondering how one's really using one's degree on a daily basis when one feels mired in printer troubleshooting. Maybe blogging at the award-winning Agnostic, Maybe; spearheading a campaign to get Ben & Jerry's to have a library-themed flavor, running #andypoll on Twitter, and so on, are the ways in which one uses one's library degree. I know it hurts (annoys, bores) one to not be able to use it as much as one would like at one's place of work, but at least we do have this space in which to think and ("unofficially," and without pay) contribute to the profession and do the kind of work we want, need, or--as I hear in Andy's tone in both posts--feel we "have a right" or "deserve" to do.

9/3/10

Shelf Check #443

Shelf Check 443
Apple: iTunes: Ping (at Apple)

Response to "The Master's Degree Misperception"

It is exceptionally rare that I get offended enough by a librar* blog post to respond to it with more than pulling a coworker over and saying, "Get a load of this," but Andy Woodworth's The Master's Degree Misperception at Agnostic, Maybe, got--as we used to say in high school--on my tits. Read it, but here are two excerpts:

On any given day, I can be standing at the circulation desk side-by-side with a support staff member doing the same thing that they are doing. So long as this arrangement exists, the perception that librarianship does not require an advanced degree will continue to taint the image of the profession.

--


It is a disservice to the education, to the degree, and to the profession when the bulk of a librarian’s daily tasks could be performed by someone with a GED...[H]ow can we separate the MLS from the paraprofessional? Should the profession insist on a greater separation of duties? Should we surrender the reference desk over to the paraprofessional and adopt “research hours” where we can sit down with people who have actual reference questions? What needs to change in how we approach the job in the context of the library?

While I do like the idea of "research hours," I'm afraid I'm fairly sure my paraprofessional self could handle them as well as many--though certainly not all--professional librarians.

I've worked in libraries on and off, mostly on, for 16 years, in both circulation and reference. I've worked in two academic and three public library systems (my personal preference is for public, because of the greater diversity of tasks and of patrons served, but I'll admit that at my last academic job I made twice what I do at my current public job). I have consciously, actively chosen not to obtain a master's degree in library and information science for the following reasons:

1) I want to work in public libraries, and librarians in public libraries don't make much unless they're in management,

2)I never want to be in management, and

therefore, 3)I can't bear the thought of the expense of the degree in comparison to how much I am likely to make after obtaining it. I don't want to be paying for my MLIS for years to come, especially as I have a high school junior and a seventh grader who want to attend college. If I truly, deeply thought that I would be learning things that would make me far, far better at my non-management, non-cataloguing job, I might go for my MLIS. But folks: I can read professional journals, I can read blog posts and professional presentations, I can engage in seminar-like discussions with professional and paraprofessional library staff in the blogosphere--I--anyone--can learn so much on my own online and in conversation with colleagues, that I really don't feel that not attending school limits my acquisition of knowledge about the work I do. I learned about Ranganathan's Laws by Googling them after seeing them mentioned in a blog post, and they were the same five laws you learned about in library school.

I love school. If someone handed me a full scholarship to library school, I'd happily go. I don't think library school is a joke or a waste of time. But I'm disgusted with tuition hikes in this country, the turning of learning into little more than a business, and will not go into hock for a degree.

If it's important to you that people outside libraryland understand why your work requires an advanced degree, and you don't think that working the public library floor contributes to the perception that it does, I suggest working in academic or corporate libraries, being in management in public libraries, or--as I prefer to, degreed or not--giving such awesome and knowledgeable service on the public desk that people are dazzled by the depth and breadth of what you can show them. This last does not require an advanced degree. It requires a hungry and dedicated mind and attitude, and a constant willingness to search out new ways to meet your patrons' needs. These days, I'd argue that it means you need to know about tools like superscreenshot.com, zamzar.com, and fillanypdf.com--little things that make your patrons' lives and work much easier once you've demonstrated them. It means keeping your eye out for the good stuff.

More on Woodworth's "someone with a GED" remark and college-as-business: in case you haven't noticed, most service staff have undergraduate degrees now, at least in my town. What's more, several service staff folks working in my county have master's degrees in library science. The jobs aren't there, people. And frankly, again because of the "businessification" of college, degrees hardly mean shit any more. It doesn't say much about your intellect, these days, if you have managed to complete a master's degree. Sure, you worked hard, you learned some stuff, fine--but the degree was ultimately a purchase. One could say "an investment," but if we're looking at the financial picture for most public librarians, it's an investment without much of a payoff.

One of my favorite library-related quotes is from Frank Zappa: "If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library." Now--I realize Zappa's talking about undergrad here; I'm not suggesting one goes to library school to get laid. BUT the point is: you can learn a lot in a library. And one extension of the point is, when you work in a library, you learn a lot. The library's original raison d'être--or one of them--is to make opportunities to learn available to folks who might not otherwise be able to afford to learn. So it seems especially ridiculous when library staff, like Woodworth in this case, assume greater intellect and ability on the part of folks who have been professionally educated and that it's best for autodidacts to stick to telling patrons where the bathroom is. If ANY profession should value the self-taught, it's this one.

I may have blogged this before--I know I've thought it before--but, even when it comes to medicine and law, I would rather be treated or represented by an intellectually-engaged, enthusiastic paraprofessional than someone with a degree who's complacent and resting on his or her laurels. Degree ≠ competence. Degree ≠ good service. A degree simply means that you worked for and obtained a degree. It has nothing to do with whether you'll be a good or dedicated librarian in practice.

Woodworth concludes his post, "I’m not ignorant of the fact that this post will not apply to some libraries that have a smaller staff; nor that there will be times when there is a crossover of duties between librarians and paraprofessionals. I’m simply saying that this will continue to be an image problem so long as it is found [that paraprofessionals and librarians often do the same work] in the majority of public libraries around the country.

To my mind, the best way to solve an "image problem" is to provide patrons with knowledgeable, kick-ass, "I can't believe how much time you just saved me," "I can't believe you were able to find a book series that my reluctant reader devoured"-type service. And to have a good, helpful, I-want-to-make-your-day-easier attitude when, yes, telling folks where the bathroom is or helping them figure out how to make double-sided copies. Because they'll remember it, and when you seem friendly, they might (they often, in my experience) decide to ask you another question, a more, in Woodworth's words, "actual reference question" (that they may not previously have felt comfortable asking, or as if it was worth "disturbing" a librarian about) after they take their leak.


(please also see follow-up post)

8/30/10

Shelf Check: Back to School

Folks, I didn't have time to get a new strip up this morning, but since today marks the beginning of the K-12 school year for so many, thought I'd rerun a couple back-to-school strips:

SHELF CHECK #84


SHELF CHECK #183