Thursday, December 27, 2012

Towards the summit

Source: Flickr user Loren Sztajer  
Oh, winter break, how sweet you are.

I'm sitting in my parent's house, in my Mom's home office. She really has created a beautiful space, and it would be a shame not to take advantage of it for some writing. Especially when there is a full pot of coffee down the hall and my hometown is buried in a few inches of freshly fallen snow.

I thought I'd write up another year in review post. I wrote one at the close of 2009, when I first started the blog and had just finished my first semester in library school. And I really enjoyed writing it. Yes, "best of" lists and "year in reviews" are cliche and overdone, but reflection is an important part of the human experience. So here it goes...

2012 was a big year. Biggest accomplishment: finishing my Masters. Not going to lie, it feels really good to have gotten the degree before I hit thirty. Not only am I thankful for the opportunities it is going to provide, I am thankful for all the amazing people I met along the way.

Next big accomplishment: landing a full time job. For the past two months, I've been the Resource Sharing Library Technician in the Public Access Services department of Portland State University's Library. Not only do I feel incredibly lucky to have a job in a market where the typical new-graduate experience is to piece together part time, on-call, and temporary jobs but the job that I landed is amazing. I oversee the inter-consortum borrowing and lending of library materials, working with an amazing team who process a few hundred books a day. It's so wonderful to be back in access services, especially at such a large university with such a dynamic circulation desk. While I have loved my experience with digital library production, I am thinking my home is going to be in the public services arena of librarianship. And I'm really looking forward to making PSU my new home.

Other accomplishments of the year: working on my first conference committee, meeting and handing over my cover letter to Rachel Maddow, and volunteering with EveryLibrary helping to raise money for the very first National PAC in support of local libraries.

Like I said, 2012 was a big year. And I hope that 2013 will be even bigger.

The only specific projects I have coming down the pike are a few possible writing projects and helping out when I can on the Infocamp Portland 2013 planning committee. There is nothing concrete to base my optimism on other than the fact I am optimistic. My path into professional librarianship is unfolding in the same way a trail up a mountain does. It takes lots of little steps to get to the top. But the steps add up, and pretty soon you can see how far you've come. At the close of 2012 I am reaching a vantage point: I  see how far I've come, and the path to the top is become much clearer.

I know that optimism for the sake of optimism is probably just a self-fulfilling prophecy. But I am okay with that. I'm doing my best to take the positive energy I do have in my life and running with it... up the path and towards the summit.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Why I Support EveryLibrary

In all of your deliberations in the Confederate Council, in your efforts at law making, in all your official acts, self-interest shall be cast into oblivion. Cast not over your shoulder behind you the warnings of the nephews and nieces should they chide you for any error or wrong you may do, but return to the way of the Great Law which is just and right. Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground – the unborn of the future Nation. 
- Great Law of the Iroquois

As an undergraduate taking environmental studies classes, the notion put forth by the Iroquois that all decisions should be made in consideration of how they will impact the community seven generations down the road was an idea that quickly influenced my ideology. I first came across it in terms of making sustainable choices, but I feel that it is an idea that can be applied to a lot of choices - especially political ones. I think that is where my frustration with Presidential Elections comes from. They always seem short sighted. National conversations appear to focus on why problems aren't fixed right away (it's going to take more than four years to bounce back from the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression) instead of the long term effects of political decisions made by our leaders (I often feel that a president's greatest power is in appointing Supreme Court Justices - who serve for life).

In the spirit of thinking of generations to come, this election season I am really throwing my support behind a brand new Political Action Committee called EveryLibrary.

Founded by John Chrastka, EveryLibrary is a national organization with the mission of building financial and tactical support to ensure that local library initiatives pass at the ballot box.

EveryLibrary will not fund any candidate for office at any level of government, nor will it work on Capitol Hill or at the State Capitols. It is focused exclusively on helping the local library secure the funding it needs when there is a tax or referendum on the local ballot. Here is a list of libraries that are currently on the ballot.

EveryLibrary will :
  • Assist libraries in both the pre-filing and campaign stages of an initiative.
  • Provide strategic consulting services, voter segmentation advice, and assistance in developing ballot language.
  • Conduct feasibility studies and assist in setting up a local committee or PAC.
  • Develop a fundraising strategy for a local committee or PAC.
  • Train volunteers in voter education and get-out-the-vote techniques.
During the run of a campaign, EveryLibrary can:
  • Continue technical and capacity-building consultancy.
  • Provide direct financial support to the local committee or PAC in seed-stage or sustaining levels of support.
  • Conduct direct voter education and get-out-the-vote efforts.
EveryLibrary is currently attempting to raise $50,000 by election day. This money will be used to: (A) Fundraise nationally to transfer "seed money" to local ballot committees and PACs; (B) Hire great campaign consultants to make sure we do voter outreach and education right; and (C) Fund full time staff to keep the PAC engine growing for future success.

In an attempt to meet this goal, John Chrastka has challenged each state to raise $1,000 by November 6th. 

I decided to volunteer to help Oregon raise money for EveryLibrary, because I believe that ensuring that libraries stay open and operation is a solid step towards creating a sustainable future for future generations. 

So now I am asking you to also step up, in consideration for future libraries users, and throw in $5 or $10 or however much you are willing to give towards this excellent cause by donating here:

Leading up to November 7th - I know that we are facing what seem like enormous decisions on local and national ballots. But I am putting my faith into EveryLibrary, and I hope that you will too. 

If you would like to read more about EveryLibrary or follow along with its progress, here is a list of links worth following:  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

OHSU Library: Why are we here?

Although I am no longer working with the OHSU project, I am very honored that I was included in this project. Produced by User Experience Librarian Laura Zeigen and directed by Amy Fraizer, a student worker, this video is an excellent look into why librarians and library staff love their jobs:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Meeting Maddow: "Thank you for being a librarian"

If you are friends with me on Facebook or follow my twitter account you probably already know that I am a big Rachel Maddow fan. Big, big fan.

When I heard that she would be coming to town to support the release of her new book, I bought tickets that very day. In what seemed like an act of divine intervention, I ended up getting the last copy of her book on display at the downtown Powell's store the day it came out. Getting my hands on that book felt like fate.

And I felt pushing that fate.

Somehow I got it in my head that I should show up at Maddow's reading with my resume and a letter on why she should hire me as her personal librarian or a research assistant. Granted, she is one of the only political commentators I watch with any regularity, but she seems to be one of the few who actually value accurate information. Which is refreshing. And it would seem logical that her staff would have a librarian on board.

The day of the reading was a pretty big day. I met up with my friend Jimmy Radosta (Communications and Fundraising Manager for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, who interviewed Maddow in 2006) and his friend Peter Zuckerman (a local writer who is about to release a book and was featured on the on the Rachel Maddow's Show, seen here at the 4:50 mark) two great guys to spend the hour with waiting for Maddow to take the stage.

Maddow was excellent, as expected. She was witty, eloquent and thought provoking. She offered great advice on booze (did you know that vermouth has a short shelf life?) and research (she loves researching the Presidents, because everything is online - including a recording of LBJ ordering pants, with specific instructions for the crotch). 

After the reading, the event staff did their best to have the book signing proceed in an orderly fashion. But there were 300-500 fans there, and it was a bit chaotic. Much like a Southwest boarding queue, we were broken up into groups. I was one of the last to go. At this point my nerves were getting the best of me. Was I actually going to do this? What was I going to say?  I was flip-flopping back and forth between chickening out or not. But as I got closer, I knew that I had to do this.

The moment of truth came. Maddow took my book and I asked her if I could give her a letter.

"Sure," she said.

"My name is Turner. I've graduated with my Masters in Library Science. I really want to move back to New England. If you ever need assistance with researching, I hope you will consider me."

She signed my book, looked me in the eye and said "Thank you for being a librarian."

"Thank you for putting on an excellent event." We shook hands, I took my book and left. With a giant smile on my face.

I will share my letter, but first, a note: this is not a very good cover letter. A good cover letter does a much better job highlighting the applicant as an excellent employee, featuring accomplishments and what you bring to the table. This is a letter written by an appreciative fan. Going into the event and even now, having given her my letter, I am realistic. I will be thoroughly surprised if anything were to come of this experience. But those six words, "thank you for being a librarian," made the whole experience worth it. 

April 15, 2012
Dear Ms. Maddow,

I am writing to you both as a fan and as a bourgeoning librarian, and as a librarian I believe that I can help you with your work. 

I have been watching your program since the 2010 elections. I had just started a project harvesting metadata from historically significant medical articles, and having your commentary play during a tedious task made the job pass quickly. Soon I became hooked and now watch your show daily. Your ability to pick up on patterns in the socio-political discourse is a breath of fresh air in the modern media machine. You were presenting stories such as the “republican war on women,” “John Boehner is bad at his job” and “the need for an Iraq War Veteran’s ticker-tape parade” to the general public long before other journalists. This might sound vapid, but you make me want to be a better librarian.

One of the cannons of library science is that of “sense making.” It is the belief that people seek information to add meaning to their experience. If we were to create a Venn diagram of librarianship and your role of a television host, sense making would be the overlap.  In receiving the Steinbeck Award, you said that “people who are better armed with useful information about their world are better able to make change in their world.” You do this. You help your viewers make sense of our world. Much like a librarian serves students, you serve the general public, and I very much want to help you in that endeavor.

You always ask your guests if you are telling a story accurately. Your dedication to quality information is what makes your show stand out. As a researcher, this is where I can help you. I have the tools to seek out quality, accurate, timely and fascinating sources to add texture to your stories. Using my degree and my enthusiasm for information dissemination in the adrenaline-laced world of media would be a dream come true.   

My passion for librarianship and information science comes from a dedication to service. Seeking information in the 21st century is a complicated and messy process. Being able to make that process easier to people I serve is a motivating and exciting career. My career has just started but has already been quite the journey, taking me from early childhood reading services at a public library to various medical research institutions to offering virtual reference services to Oregon residents. However, as a young librarian I realize that my skill set does not have to be confined to the traditional library institution. Your visit to Portland happening as I finish my Masters in Library Science is fortuitous timing. My skills could be an excellent asset to the Rachel Maddow Show, and now I have the opportunity to make my case to you. 

Yes, I am asking for a job that is unsolicited. It would be a dream to assist you as a researcher or librarian, however I realize this may not happen. At the very least I am thankful for the opportunity to hand you this letter, being able to communicate how much I value your work. But, if you do give me a chance to join the Rachel Maddow Team, I promise I will deliver. 


J. Turner Masland

Monday, March 12, 2012

An open letter to Judy Blume

Are you there, Judy? It's me, Turner....

Dear Ms. Blume,

I am a big fan - on many levels. Born in the early 80s, I grew up with your books. They were in my home, in my classrooms and in my public and school libraries. As a child, the covers of your books were comforting. I especially loved the Fudge Series. They helped me recognize that no family was perfect and that relationships between brothers can be difficult, but are still built on love. Important lessons for a ten year old boy.

I will be honest - between middle school and graduate school, I did not think of you or your books that often. But I continued to be an avid reader. You slipped back into my life in 2008 - when I was working at a bookstore and saw that you wrote the introduction to that year’s Best American Nonrequired Reading (I especially loved your pirate photo).  Rediscovering you prepared me for learning of your rock-star status when I entered library school in 2009. Librarians LOVE you - as we should. You have been on the forefront of the fight against censorship and you deserve every award and accolade you have received.

Last week, when it was announced that 13 of your titles are going to be released as ebooks, I felt compelled to write you. As someone who rides public transportation, I am a fan of ereaders. I also believe that offering the opportunity to read in a variety of formats is a good thing - what K. G. Schneider describes as a reading ecology. That said, the way publishers provide ebooks to libraries is causing me anxiety. Especially Random House, who appear to be raising some prices as much as 300%. These prices will take a large bite out of library’s budgets and might hinder our ability to provide an expansive collection to our community members. Some librarians are already thinking of alternative uses for their ebook budget.

I know that Random House is your publisher, and you never want to bite the hand that feeds you. But you are also a champion of libraries, and this is a battle that we are currently fighting.  Even halfway through this letter, I am not sure of my intentions. Ideally, I would love for you to come to our aide - this is a fight that is going to depend on the participation of librarians, readers and authors alike. But I know that defying your publisher in anyway is a dangerous move. I guess I would just like you to be aware of the predicament that we are in. I hope through the technological advancements of retweeting and reposting you might see this letter (I did mail this letter to you through you publisher, but I’ll be surprised if it gets to you...).

Thank you. For all that you already have done. In the past forty years you have influenced American culture and inspired many librarians (including this one) to fight the good fight. Whether or not this letter has an effect, know that you are still a hero. And the battle rages on....


J. Turner Masland

Sunday, March 4, 2012

How do we add bite to our bark?

Photo credit: Surtr via Flickr
ALA President Molly Raphael issued the following statement in response to the announcement that Random House is raising prices of ebooks for libraries

While I appreciate Random House’s engagement with libraries and its commitment to perpetual access, I am deeply disappointed in the severe escalation in ebook pricing reported today. Calling on our history together and our hope to satisfy mutual goals moving forward, the American Library Association strongly urges Random House to reconsider its decision. In a time of extreme financial constraint, a major price increase effectively curtails access for many libraries, and especially our communities that are hardest hit economically.

Also, ALA appreciates the data gaps that exist, and we commit to work quickly and collaboratively to address this concern. We must have better data to inform decisions that have such wide and deep implications.

Finally, we recognize and thank those publishers and aggregators that have worked with libraries on e-book lending models at a time of significant disruption and change. Libraries must have the ability to purchase a wide range of digital content at a fair price so that all readers have full access to our world’s creative and cultural resources, especially those who depend on libraries as their only source of reading material.

Libraries belong at the center of this digital revolution, not on the periphery. We continue to seek partners to further our shared goals of connecting readers and authors well into the 21st century.

I am very glad that Raphael and the ALA are coming out with a statement, but.... I feel that this is all bark and no bite. I agree that libraries need to be at the center of the digital revolution - but what exactly are we doing to stay there? As I mentioned in an earlier post, I believe that the ebook debate will not be solved by a technological solution but through a moral argument. How can we make the publishers agree that open access to information is an American virtue and they should be working with us instead of hindering us? 

I know that these are some big questions, but this is a big issue and I am not sure where the solution lies. I do know that we need to continue  to ask these questions, as well as work together to make sure our voice is heard. 

The Digital Shift has a great guide, Publishers in the Library Ebook Market, for anyone (like me) who needs some more back ground context to this debate. 

As always, Andy Woodworth is lending some valid observations/arguments/agitations/suggestions to this debate. Today he had a great post putting forth the notion that Overdrive should partner with Amazon, becoming a potential major player in providing ebook content for libraries libraries.

What do you think, dear readers? Are there any other writers out there who are putting forth valid arguments in this discussion?  What is our future going to look like? you have to admit, with these big questions and big issues, it's an exciting time to be a librarian...

Friday, March 2, 2012

Logro agridulce

For the past nine months I have had the great pleasure assisting with the creation of the Washington County Heritage Online digital collection. Funded by a LSTA grant, the collection brings together cultural organizations from across Washington County in the creation of a digital photograph collection. Specifically, I have been cataloging images donated by Centro Cultural, the county's foremost Latino community organization. Being trusted with their photographs was an honor, and I am very proud of this collection. Working with another volunteer, we have selected, digitized, restored and wrote metadata for about 900 images - all depicting Centro Cultural's contributions to Washington County.

Photographed by Francisco Rangel. Copyright held by Centro Cultural.
Now that the project is over, it is a little sad for this experience to come to an end. I really enjoyed working in the Pacific University Archives. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to see a project through from start to finish. And I hate to admit it, but I am also going to miss the two hour (one way) bus/train/bus ride out to Forest Grove. It was a wonderful opportunity for contemplation and reading. I think I read more books since starting this gig than I did while working a Borders Bookstore.

Although my time with this collection has come to an end, I know there are many more organizations who are ready and willing to contribute more photographs to this collection, and I am really excited to see watch this collection grow.