Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I'm a crafty bitch, baby

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm traveling back east right now (writing this post in the Boston area), mostly to visit my nephew (who is a whopping three weeks old and the most amazing baby ever), but also to spend time with friends and family.

It was really great to catch up with my sister-in-law who, with one of her close friends, just started the blog Yankee Crafty Bitch. Go ahead, click the link, take a few minutes to check it out, and then hurry back.

Amazing, right?

Although I have never really finished a project myself, I'm kind of obsessed with the crafty, do-it-yourself (DIY) culture, which goes hand-in-hand with librarianship pretty seamlessly (pun intended).

Among the crafters and DIYers there is a pretty defiant attitude towards the general social acceptance (and apathy) of relying on an expert to: change your oil, clean your gutters, landscape your yard, decorate your house, etc. etc. etc. Why buy it in a store when you can make it/grow it/build it/fix it yourself?

Crafters and DIYers really embrace independence and are legit creative problem solvers. They celebrate thinking outside the box and are fearless in the face of a challenge. To them, there is nothing a little elbow grease can't fix.

I think these are all very important traits when it comes to being a librarian. There are quite a few challenges facing the library industry, and we will tackle them with the same perseverance and tenacity that a crafter will approach putting together a pair hand stitched reconstructed organic yoga pants.

Back to the blog....

I was impressed when a few weeks back it quietly appeared on Facebook. I knew my sister in law and her friends were a creative group of folks, but I was impressed as their projects (and their fans) started to pile up.

As we were hanging out in my Mom's house, cooing over the baby and enjoying some home cooked curry, we started talking about our respective blogs. We found ourselves sitting at a computer, bouncing between various websites, sharing tips and strategies. We discussed at great length the anxiety that the process of blogging creates; mostly due to the overwhelming information that is floating around out there and the self induced pressure to keep current with the myriad of social networking opportunities offered by the world wide web.

As I'm learning in library school, some of the most trusted sources of information will be the people that you already know, and it was great to discuss with someone else the process of creating a blog and the online community that goes with it.

I know that there are a ton of craft blogs out there and Yankee Crafty Bitch is still pretty new, but I guarantee that it is going to be one of the best, because I know that it has some amazing energy and talent backing it up. This is a blog that you are certainly going to want to keep an eye on.....

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

This blog post is overdue!

It's amazing how life doesn't ever seem to slow down. My to-do list over the next few weeks is starting to get a little daunting. Between now and the first week of March, I'm moving into a new house, traveling back east to visit family and friends (and meet my very first nephew!), finishing up special projects for work at the library and for various volunteer gigs, and staying on top of school work.

Praise the lord for the internet.

I did want to take a moment for a post here at Dewey's Not Dead - I just read the most amazing book and I can't stop talking about it.

This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Maryiln Johnson

For those of you embedded in library industry, you've probably seen blog posts and tweets about this book everywhere (I would put some links up here, but there are way to many and god created Google for a reason). For those of you not as involved in libraries, don't fret, the book is so good that you'll enjoy it, too.

Finally, in an age where so many people think libraries are no longer necessary in a functioning society, Johnson comes riding in like a knight (what's a female knight? knightess?) in shining armor, proving again and again that libraries (and librarians) will not only be necessary in society, but will also be among the technological vanguard leading the revolution.

Here are my favorite parts of the book:

The first being the detailed account in which a few mild mannered New England librarian fought the U.S. Government's flagrant disregard of the constitution. The days following September 11th, 2001 and the passage of the patriot act were pretty scary times, but it was relieving to know that librarians had (and still have) our backs.

The second? Second Life. Who knew that librarians would be some of the largest embracers of this virtual world? There are huge communities of librarians there, running impressive virtual libraries. It was pretty fun to read about them - especially the passage that describes an actual (virtual) re-creation of the Mad Hatter's tea party from Alice In Wonderland. Librarians are so cool. Weird, but cool.

Of course, the book brought up some pretty serious issues as well. One passage described the effort of New York Public Library to transition a research branch into a circulation branch. The library's board of trustees mean well - this will allow for more of the general public to access the library's resources, but Johnson describes how there are serious concerns that irreplaceable materials (and staff) of that branch's research collection could be lost.

Because of this book I am pretty excited about checking out both radical reference and the NYPL website (it sounds like they are doing some pretty exciting things with digital content).

I don't want to go into too much more detail, otherwise there would be no reason for you to read the book (and I have way too much other stuff to do). As my childhood hero LeVar Burton always said "You don't have to take my word for it!"

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I was in my neighborhood comic book shop...

I was in my neighborhood comic book shop with a fellow library student (we were doing research, I swear) when a mom walked in with her 6 year old son. Upon entering the store, the kid's eyes light up and he b-lines it to the superman comics. Although it's always pretty awesome to see children full of excitement, what really melted my heart was when he turned to his mom, his little fist full of comic books, and said "Can we check these out???"

"No, Honey," the mother replied as though she had been through this routine before, "this isn't a library, it's a bookstore."

Why can't they stay little forever....

I'm starting, finally, to get into comic books and graphic novels. I don't know why, but I was never really was into them as a kid. As an adult living in Portland, Oregon, comics sink into your subconsciousness, as if by osmosis. They're ubiquitous, all the cool kids are reading them, so I guess I should be, too.

And not just in Portland, either. Comic books, and comic book culture, seem to be really holding there own in western culture. Comic Cons continue to grow in popularity, most blockbusters these days seem to have their genesis in comic books, Allan Moore & Dave Gibbon's The Watchmen was named one on the top 100 novels of all time by Time magazine. The impressive art of sketching stories through hand drawn pictures is everywhere. One could argue that comic books are no longer for the geeks and the losers, but I would argue that the geeks and losers are finally taking their proper, hegemonic position in our society....

Recently, I discovered two of my favorite science fiction series were turned into a comic book - Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow - both by Orson Scott Card (yes, Orson Scott Card is a Mormon homophobe, but he is a good storyteller). It's great to see what some artists have done with the story, and it's equally great to revisit one of my favorite stories in a brand new format.

I also recently discovered the realm of historical and non-fiction graphic novels. My most recent find was a illustrated retelling of the formation and demise of the Students for a Democratic Society by Harvey Pekar. It's pretty amazing.

I think it's great that a lot of libraries, especially public libraries, are ensuring that their holdings include an expansive collection of graphic novels. Not only do these books foster imagination and creativity, but they can also be great alternative learning tools.

I want to discover more graphic novels, but am a little overwhelmed by all that is out there. Do you, dear readers, have any favorites you could share with me? Feel free to leave a comment with your recommendation and I'll see if I can get my hands on it....

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Think of the user.....

A few weeks into my second semester as a library student, I've been noticing a common phrase all of my instructors have been using.

"Think of the user."

When organizing information, we need to think of who wants to access it and what is the easiest way for them to find it. When manning the reference desk, we need to ascertain what the user is looking for and how are they are going to use it. Not to pass judgment, but to focus our search of the information to materials that will be most useful.

Not only does the expression come up in lectures and discussions, but also in assignments. We're developing a reference collection and we need to consider who is going to use it. What are their needs? What is their previous experience with similar material? Will this collection be useful?

We are developing annotated bibliographies on various subjects pertaining to the organization of information, and we need to think of who our audience is and what are the most pertinent resources we can highlight.

A successful and efficient library will always place its patron's needs at the center of its efforts.

In thinking about the importance of focusing on the user, I try and take the concept out of the realm of librarian. What if everyone, in any profession, constantly reminded themselves to "consider the user?"

What if the heads of big bankers asked themselves if high-risk loans where going to fully benefit their customers? Or if paying out huge bonuses to it's upper management would help out those whose housing were being foreclosed? Or politicians, when engaged in health-care reform debates, truly had their constituents at heart, rather than just promoting the advancement of their political party?

Consider this specific example:Just today, the Lancet reported that it was removing one of the most controversial studies it has published in recent years: the study that linked vaccinations to autism. Their reasoning? It turns out that the author was receiving large sums of money from a lawyer who was going after companies that produced the vaccinations.

While this certainly won't remove the controversy surrounding childhood vaccinations (I personally studied Thimerosal a little too much in college to fully take one side of the debate or the other), it certainly calls into question the intent of the author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield. Was he considering the user? Was he thinking about the outcome of this study and the affect it could have on the health of millions and millions of children. It certainly doesn't seem like he was.

After mulling over these thoughts, I'm going to try and make a personal pledge. As I go through my daily life, not only as a future librarian but as an active member of society, I'm going to try and always think about how my actions and interaction are going to affect others. I'm going to try and remember to ask myself, am I being helpful? Granted, I'll probably never be publishing major international scientific reports or run a bank, but even a little bit of helpfulness can go a long way....