Tuesday, March 26, 2013

New Rules for Libraries and Librarians

I am a fan of Bill Maher's show on HBO.  My favorite part of the show is when he presents his New Rules for the week, which consists of riffs on pop culture topics (except I can't go there with him on Catholic-bashing; I plan on going to heaven...). In the spirit of Mr. Maher, I am presenting New Rules for Libraries and Librarians, based on my experience as a grad student who works in two libraries.   Here we go...

1.  Anyone who wants a leadership role ever in their library career should be assigned to shelving books for one month.  You can't fully understand patron behavior, collection management, acquisition issues and cataloging until you see how books are organized and how important this task is.  You can have the biggest book budget, the best acquisitions librarian and catalogers trained by Michael Gorman himself, but if the shelving system, or the shelvers themselves are undervalued and not trained, the patrons can't find materials.  And patrons cannot use what they cannot find.

1.a.  There should be a law forbidding use of the bottom shelf for books.  It is easier to reach up than down.

2.  Libraries need to let people know what they have and what they can provide, especially in this economic  environment.  I was talking with a lawyer yesterday who had just gone out on his own and was lamenting his having to pay for Westlaw service.  When I told him that the public library provides that for free, I thought he was going to faint with joy. I haven't bought a CD in years, because of Freegal, the free and legal music downloading source.  There needs to be a better way of letting the taxpaying public know about all the services available.

3.  Stop treating librarians like they just walked in off the street and started checking out books.  Librarians are highly trained, professionally-degreed individuals.  They are constantly studying their craft.  They probably should wear capes, they are such superheroes.  So the next time you approach someone behind the desk with superiority just because they're behind the desk, remember, they can catalog and classify you from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet in less than 5 minutes.  They are service workers, not personal slaves. 

4.  Cutting funding to librarians should not even be a part of the conversational zeitgeist.  A quote I love says "Cutting libraries in a recession is like closing hospitals during a plague."The libraries are the great equalizers in a community.  The inmate who sends a reference question will get the same stellar service as the millionaire who donates to the library every year or the person trying to use the computer to apply for food stamps or the middle schooler who's working on their science fair project.  Good librarians see questions, requests and patrons, that's all. 

5.  Librarians have to start flying their freak flags higher.  Yes, we are a weird bunch.  But we rule the world...

Monday, March 18, 2013

Post conference + post midterm=REFRESHED!

Wow, I can't believe that I havent' posted in so long.  The last couple of weeks have flown by and in that time I've attended our wonderful state conference (Louisiana Library Association), received an award from them, taken midterms, turned in 3 projects, and worked  at all of my jobs.  WHEW!

I have always loved conferences.  When I was practicing law, I loved kicking it around at law conferences because you always got to see people you don't often see, get to know new faces, and learn something about the profession.  Librarians do conferences on a whole different level, however.  And I mean that in a very good way. 

Here are my top takeaways from LLA 2013.  I am going to be attending ALA in June in Chicago.  I welcome any tips from anyone who has attended. 

1.  Networking.  Librarians are a great group of professionals.  They are very welcoming to students and will place talking to you over other conference highlights, like exhibits.  I met a number of people at this conference, and not one of them ever shied away from talking about how great their jobs are and how wonderful a profession I was entering.


2.  It's a small state.  Many of us plan to stay in Louisiana, and the library world here is pretty small.  The person you sat next to at lunch may just be someone that will be interviewing you for a job.  It's always good to know names and faces.


3.  You make your job hunt easier.  I've been a hiring manager before.  Here's a secret.  People other than HR professionals HATE the hiring process.  It is not a natural part of the job and it takes time.  The savvy manager hires for personality, knowing that most smart hires can be trained.  Plus, the applicant pool can sometimes be very scary.  The path of least resistance is to compile a pool of interviewees that they know, or know of, or who someone they know and respect gives a great recommendation.  Early in my last career, a manager told me that people hire people they know.  That's generally true.  So making connections at no-pressure events like conferences makes it that much easier for you to get a foot in the door of that dream job.


4.  Librarians know how to pick menus.  The food was awesome!


5.  Book dinners.  I've been to 2 LLA conferences now and this events are always a treat.  This year, Charlaine Harris of Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood fame was the keynote speaker.  She was a delight.  This is also a great place to network.


6.  Expert seminars.  The seminars are top notch, and are great to use for paper or project topics.  There were so many good ones at the same time that I didn't nearly get to attend all that I wanted.  Highlights were:   Addressing Alliteracy, Serving Teens in Juvenile Facilities, RDA Blastoff, and The School Librarian as Archivist.


7.  SWAG. - The exhibitors have it and they want to give it.  I'm good on notepads and pens.  But I also learned about some library vendors that will be of interest to me when I am working in a library as a professional.  Many librarians have stressed the importance of developing good relationships with vendors.  Also, it turns out that many people who work for vendors are librarians themselves!


8.  You don't have to travel very far.  We live in Louisiana, not Texas, so the longest travel is 5 hours.  Even if you have to go to North Louisiana.


9.  It's a small enough conference that it's easy to meet people and make meaningful connections with them.


10.  You never know who you might meet.  The ALA President-Elect, Barbara Stripling, was at the conference.  She is super cool and very smart.  Y'all know I picked her brain.