Friday, February 22, 2013

And yet ANOTHER cool TEDx video

This one is one how you as citizens shape what the library of the future will be.
This is a really cool TEDX video from YouTube about the importance of libraries and what librarians really do.   It's quick and cool, so take a look.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Keeping It All Together...Or At Least Giving It the Graduate School Try...

One of the many things people ask me about my journey in library school is how I do it, what made me decide to do it, and how do I manage to keep lots of balls in the air.  In this post, I'll give you the quick and dirty on how my life is not complete chaos, along with some of the things that went into my decision-making to completely upend my life and follow a girlhood dream.

What Made Me Decide to Do It:

1.  I was about to turn 40, I had a job that I liked, but I wondered what I wanted to be doing for the next 30-40 years (since Social Security will be something for the archivists to explain).  My life was okay, but I knew that okay wasn't going to be enough for me and my personality. 

2. By chance, I made friends with the director of the library system in my hometown.  He is an amazing man and now a mentor.  I told him that I had always wanted to be a librarian, but that I would probably just wait and be the nice old lady at the desk checking out books in my retirement. This is, of course, when I thought I still would retire at a decent age.  He posed a query to me that stuck:  "Why wait?  You could go to library school and be finished in 2 years." I laughed, thought about my vow to never go to school again and waved him off.  He responded by putting me on an advisory committee for the strategic plan for the system.  This was in preparation in part to present a plan to voters about how the library would continue to be vital to the community (anybody hear millage renewal in all this?).  I was hooked, especially when the consultant, ALA legend Sandra Nelson, told me I was a natural librarian.  At this point, I thought, "Hmm, what if?" I quickly banished the thought and went back to my life.

3.  Four months after that conversation, my mother became very ill and subsequently passed away.  My core completely shifted and I knew that I had to get busy living or get busy dying.  The next year of my life was pretty crazy, but I look back now and know that God was simply preparing me for the next phase of my life.

4.  During said crazy year, in a passing conversation with a good friend of mine, he mentioned that his aunt was a librarian at a local university.  What he failed to tell me was that she is a diva librarian and the dean of libraries at that university.  On a lark, I called her and set up a meeting just to talk with her.  By the time I walked out the door, I was scheduled to meet with the dean of my library school along with one of the professors, who has since become a mentor.  This was November 28.  By December 10, I had applied, and I started school on January 14.  The stars really aligned.

How I Stay Sane and Casually Organized:

Being a full time student is a challenge.  Scratch that -- it is flippin' HARD!!!  I have to manage to go to class, study, prepare, complete assignments and projects and all the attendant work that goes along with that.  Since I didn't win the lottery, I also have to work.  This is good though, because it gives a dimension to my education that I really appreciate.   I also have to have ME time. 

1.  I have learned to say NO! As much as I would love to do a lot of things, like teach catechism to kids at my church, sew some of my own clothes, go on spur of the moment trips with my girlfriends like I used to do, I have to decline.  A lot.  I don't really worry about this, because I have wonderful friends who know what I'm doing and are very supportive. 

2.  I know that this lifestyle is temporary.  I won't always be in this crazy work/school mode.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and that is a good thing.

3.  I don't worry much about what people think of this.  I've made a lot of sacrifices to graduate from library school debt free.  I moved home with my dad for several months to save money to be full time.  I cannot tell you when I've been on a real shopping spree.  I don't eat out very much at all.  My life looks very different from when I was a lawyer making (somewhat) lawyer money.  But I am happier than I have ever been in my life.  I know what my priorities are and what my outcomes my look like.  And that makes me leap out of bed every day.

4.  I don't need nearly as much as I used to think that I did.  This goes for clothes, cable, mani/pedi's, stuff and forms of entertainment.  I am very happy listening to music or watching a documentary on PBS.  I also got rid of a lot of STUFF that was beginning to overtake my space.  I have read about 50 books on simplifying my life.  Little did I know that it doesn't work until you actually do it. 

5.  I have a routine.  I must do this in order to balance 2 jobs and coursework.  I find that the routine almost completely eliminates stress.  I have a lot to do, but I don't have a lot of stress about it, because it's all on the calendar.

6. I get proper rest.  That is probably the biggest key to success.  If I don't get enough sleep, I am useless.  Therefore, my 8 hours is a priority. 

7.  I remember why I am doing this.  As busy as I am, I really love my work and my classes.  I can envision myself as a true information professional.  I know that in 15 months, I will be a degreed librarian, and I have faith that God will place me exactly where I am supposed to be.  This is a small sacrifice of time that I've invested for an amazing quality of life for the foreseeable future. 

8.  I lean on my family.  My family is very supportive of me having "hit reset on my life," according to my brother.  That means everything.  Plus, the free meals are a definite treat!

9.  Being a student is fun.  I had a great college experience, and I feel like I'm getting a do-over.  I mean, there are no more crawfish boils and keggers at someone's house or frat house any longer, but I feel like I am really soaking in this entire experience.

10.  I am infinitely blessed to be able to do this.  I know that there are people who dream of doing what I did, but they have kids, or other responsibilities that keep them from it.  When it gets hard, and believe me, it does get hard, I know that I have been given a gift.  I don't take that for granted.  Ever. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Library Is NOT just for kids.

I am often struck that people who are well educated, involved in their communities and generally cool as heck that I know are totally clueless about the library.  Libraries are like churches for some people -- you know they're good to have around and vital to the community, but they think there's nothing there for them.  The idea of a library is comforting.  But the reality is astonishing.

This couldn't be more shortsighted.  Whenever I tell people that I'm in library school, they often respond with, "Oh!  I love(d) taking my kids there for story time and for the kiddie programs!  As if there weren't a million other things that libraries offer that can make your life 100 times more totally awesome than it already is.  It's time for the Shannan Hicks Primer On Why You Should Go To The Library, Get A Card, and Start Living.

1.  Okay, to be fair, libraries are awesome places for kids.  When I put it together that I could go into a library and checkout as many books as my little hands could carry, I fell wholesale deep in love with the library.  Great children's librarians gave me suggestions on what to read next, got to know my reading personality and always had a great new book waiting (in Library World, we call this Reader's Advisory).  Libraries just smell like magic.

2.  The second most obvious is that there are FREE BOOKS!!!!!  My brother Michael often says that I have fulfilled Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point Theory because I have spent at least 10,000 hours reading.  He's absolutely right.  I read A LOT! However, people are surprised at how few books I actually own.  I get 98% of my reading material from the library.  If a book that I want is not on the shelf, I can easily put it on hold online or through my phone.  Usually, it's not a very long wait.  I can vouch for the fact that Shreve Memorial Library, East Baton Rouge Parish and Bossier Parish library systems have amazingly efficient hold systems.  Since I don't work for Barnes & Noble or Amazon, I can tell you that I could never afford to buy all the books that I read.  $28.95 for the new John Grisham?  No thanks,  I am a student...

Also, free music downloads (Freegal) are available at libraries.  It's like having a never-ending iTunes card.

3.  Interlibrary Loan System - Did you know that your local public library has relationships with other libraries throughout the nation.  So if they don't have a book, they can get it from another library.  That means that your free library card entitles you to get books from virtually any library in the country?  What is that I hear?  Realization?  Yes, I thought so.

4.  Overdrive.  The sole reason I purchased a Nook is that at the time it was the only device that allowed downloads from this free amazing resource at the library.  Overdrive basically adds an e-branch layer to the library.  In the same way that you would download a book to your Nook, Kindle or iPad, you can do the same with Overdrive and the library.   There are both downloadable books and mp3 audiobooks. You are crazy if you are paying for a subscription to Audible.

If you are a crazy book lady like me, you have several library cards from living in different places.  You can use all of their Overdrive libraries, too.

5.   Reference librarians are the mistresses/masters of the universe.  These gods and goddesses can help you find the answer to any questions, whether it's help with a science project to accessing public programs to telling you how to fill your own tooth.  Because of a reference librarian, I found two scholarships that got me through college.  And this was before the Internet!  Reference librarians totally rock.

6.  The library has databases full of information that you would not believe.  You can literally find something on any topic, and librarians are trained to know these databases and help you decode them.  There are also LibGuides, written by librarians, which may be information of local interest, or just anything in which the librarian has an interest or expertise.  And librarians have some cool interests.  These are worth checking out.

7.  Public resources.  It has been stated that only 30% of people in my home state of Louisiana have consistent wireless access and computers at home.  In our wired world, it can be easy to assume that everyone has an iMac perched in their home and a Kindle Fire in their bag, but an overwhelming amount of  people do not.  The library is usually the only place that they can go to use the computer.  And not for just surfing the Net.  Many government services are online only now, such as unemployment benefits.  (The paradox is that if you don't have a job, you may very well not have a computer, but please don't get me started on that).  Also, many employers only take online applications.  Therefore, the library is an economic driver in communities.  I have helped people apply for food stamps, jobs, unemployment, find out how to give to charity, and many other things that you simply would not believe.

Many libraries also offer checkout of laptops, test guides (ACT, LSAT, PRAXIS, etc.), iPads and e-readers.

Pretty surprising, huh?

8.  Access wherever you are.  Libraries often have very good and informative websites that you can access wherever you are.  There are also apps available to help you keep track of what you have out and when it's due.

9.  Libraries welcome everyone.  Don't have a job and need a place to set up during the day to do a job search without feeling obligated to buy $5 coffee?  Go to the library.  Homeless and want to get out of the weather?  Go to the library.  Want to hide from everyone for a couple of hours and read in the quiet?  You guessed it.  Go to the library.  Nobody judges you in the library.  Well, most people don't.

10.  And well, frankly, the library is a great place to take your kids.  Why don't you take a kid to the library today, see if they don't fall in love a little too.

Please look at the links to really great libraries at the bottom of this blog.  Dig around a little.  I promise you'll find something that you didn't know and will improve your life.