Friday, June 25, 2010

Only YOU can prevent library closures

A good friend just shared a link on my Facebook wall: Libraries and Librarians are Endangered Species: What You Can Do To Help.

It's an article published on The Huffington Post, written by Carol Fitzgerald, an individual with quite a bit of experience in the publishing world.

At first I was really put off by the title, I don't think (or like to think of) libraries and librarians as endangered species. But I read the article, and it certainly brightened my day. Fitzgerald offered up a story of a community who rallied together to save their public library. Here's my favorite quote from her story:

As petitions were signed, one opinion dominated --- not one person supported closing the library. People were united, a rarity in local politics; the library needed to stay open. The politicians couldn't miss that message, and so, on the subsequent council vote, only one councilman opposed keeping the library open.

Reading this story made me think of another close call, that is still not in the clear. The City of Boston delayed the closing of branches by nine months to try and figure out a plan of reorganization. You can read the Boston Globe story here: Library Closings Temporarily Averted.

These stories are classic examples of what I was talking about in my post last week: The Sky Is Falling. Yes, we are living in scary scary times. Yes, there are real threats to our library systems, especially public and school libraries. But there are real people out there who work real hard to keep the libraries open and the materials circulating.

And they are average citizens, just like you.

I've been seeing this quote floating around the internet (and I'm paraphrasing here): Closing libraries during a recession is like closing hospitals during an epidemic. Now more than ever, free and uncensored access to information is essential to ensure a strong, healthy and democratic society. We need to establish libraries and librarians remain permanent fixtures of our communities.

Here are two things you can do right now to help:

1. Visit the American Library Association's Legislative Action Center by clicking here. This site not only offers an opportunity for direct action (by writing you Congressional Representatives, urging them to support the Library Services and Technology Act which makes $300 million dollars accessible to libraries through grants), but it's also a great resources to look up who your elected representatives are.

2. On a more local level, if you haven't already, join you local library's "Friends of the Library" association. Usually for a small annual fee of $15-20 (the price of a new book), you can help guarantee that your community will always have a library.

And on a personal note, Dewey's Not Dead has seen a big swell in readership the past few weeks, so I wanted to thank all of you who check back in and read what I have to say. Have any of you out there heard of other examples or opportunities of how we can be library advocates?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Facebook is a learning tool. No really, it is.

Haters love to hate Facebook.

I think it is one of those phenomenons where a cultural artifact (or a meme) circulates through certain thresholds of popularity: starting underground, moving onto edgy, then widespread, loathing, and finally ironic. Kind of like Dave Mathews Band.

I think Facebook is teetering between widespread and loathing. In one moment people will cry foul about privacy issues and parents creating face book pages, threatening to cancel their account, yet in another moment they will turn around and chronicle myopic details about their lives on their Facebook wall.

While I think there are serious concerns about Facebook's privacy policy (I would love to write a blog post about it someday, but that would take too much research and I have enough on my plate as it is), people have to realize that Facebook is the internet, and unless you want something to say completely private, DON"T PUT IT ON THE INTERNET. Now that she's has a Facebook profile, I fully realize that my Mom could find anything I post online.

While I think people are always going to rip on Facebook (as they should - it is a corporate entity whose only mission is to profit off of it's users), it is forever going to be a part of our lives. And now that I'm undertaking internet-based scholastic endeavors, Facebook is fast becoming part of my classroom.

Case-in-point: this semester an instructor assigned our class a take home exam. Having some foresight, the instructor explained that she believes that adult learners work best through collaboration, and highly encouraged us to work together on the exam. Being young adult learners, most of took to Facebook as our collaboration facilitation.

One member of the cohort sent our a message to the rest of us, initially to try and set up a time when we could all get together, but we all started posting questions we had about the exam, and soon our discussion grew. At this point there are almost 50 posts in the thread, occurring over the span of a week between fourteen students. It's been the most intense Facebook experience I have had in the half decade I have had an account.

Yet, it's not very surprising that it's been natural for us to discuss our exam through Facebook. Posting an electronic message, regardless of the venue (Facebook, a Blog comment, Black Board, etc.) is like school for us. Online posts and comments are fast becoming a ubiquitous form of communication. My friends and I joke that with the proliferation of social networking, email feels really formal now...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The sky is falling


Alright, after last week's post about keeping things brief, I'm going to eat my words and go off on a bit of a rant.

Sometimes I wonder if librarians are their own worst enemy. There, I said it.

The above image - from PostSecret, a collaborative art project where total strangers mail in post cards with their secrets on them - illustrates beautifully where I am coming from.

We get it - the economy sucks and the sucky economy is screwing over libraries left and right. We've talked about this for ages now. Can we please move on?

It's really frustrating as a library student to be hearing the same thing over and over again: libraries aren't hiring, librarians aren't retiring, budgets are getting cut, folks are getting laid off, branches are closing, rah rah rah rah rah....

It seems like most librarians, library workers and fellow students I come across - both in person and (mostly) online - are broken records, stuck in the "woe is us" mentality.

I - the naive library student - say enough is enough! We've gone through the cathartic bellyaching phase and now is the roll-up-our-sleeves and work harder phase. It doesn't sound like fun, but I think it's what we've got to do.

Personally, I am a little nervous about what my job prospects will be like when I graduate in a year, but I've been hustling, and I'm willing to hustle a little more when school is over. I'll do what it takes to get a personally satisfying job. I'm well aware that I am going to leave Portland - an amazing city that has been my home for four years now. There is a strong reality that I'll have to live in a much less glamorous part of the county. Maybe even Kansas.

Except for who we vote for and what we choose to do with our money, we have very little control over the state of the economy. So let's try and focus on what we do have control over: ourselves. What can we do to stop library closings? Advocate, advocate, advocate. One of the things that most attracted me to the idea of becoming a librarian/information professional was the activism that seemed to go hand in hand with the position. Librarians fight for the right of the patron, for the privacy of the patron, for the access of the patron. Well - now is the time to fight for ourselves!

Here is a great link to librarian.net, with a list of single-link library advocacy sites.

And here is link to contact your elected representatives to ensure that libraries get in on the Jobs for Main Street Act.

What else can we do? Accept change. I feel like a lot of the hand wringing that librarians are doing is not only over the state of the economy, but also the fact that libraries are quickly changing. Well - if we want to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our communities, we are going to have to change. The mission of a library - from my prospective - is to connect an individual with information. If the format of the information is changing, than the format of the library will change too.

I don't intend to sound insensitive to the very real fears people are experiencing out there - although I am sure that I am coming off that way. For those who have been laid off or lost jobs - I'm sorry. Bad things happen to really really good people. I wish you the best and hope you are quickly on your feet.

I know I am in a very lucky position - I'm a young student without a family, mortgage, car, pets. I'm highly mobile and I have grown up using the technology that libraries now employ. But these are my skills and attributes that I have to take advantage of. This is something that we all should do, especially in this day and age of volatility, look at what we bring to the table and how to use those skills to our advantage.

I write all of this after attending a quarterly staff meeting at the library where I work - and while it was pretty mundane, it was also pretty exciting as well. The library where I work - before I started working here nine months ago - has gone through a lot of the same troubles that most libraries have gonethrough. Between lay offs, retirements and hiring freezes the staff here is half to a third of what it was before this great recession.

Yet here we are today still working - albeit a bit harder. Not only are we surviving, but we are thriving. The amazing library staff is working on building the resources for a mobile library, we are opening up a 24 hour study space for the students, we are outreaching to the different academic departments and schools within the university and applying for competitive grants to secure our funding into the future. And with the wage/hire freeze lifted - there is hope for more job opportunities.

What I guess it all boils down to - for me (this is my blog so I'm allowed a bit of selfishness) - is that I am the future and this is my reality. In a way, I am glad to have entered library school in 2009 - it means that I am a blank slate. I don't know what it was like when budgets were flush and things were easier. I am cutting my teeth when the industry is facing some of it's worst challenges than ever before. And I'm going to be a better librarian for it.

Let me know what you think. Am I too harsh? Too idealistic? Too Unrealistic? I would love to read your thoughts...




Tuesday, June 8, 2010

back in school. sigh.


The rain is starting to let up. The farmer's markets are in full swing. It's warm late into the night. You know what that means? Yep - I'm up to my neck in homework!!

This is my first time ever taking classes during the summer (sometimes I'm amazed I never had to go to summer school in my younger years), and I think it's a going to be a love/hate relationship:

A. It does mean that I will graduate early. Attending summer term allows me to graduate in two years rather than three.

B. The small voice of reason and logic (which I try to ignore at all costs) tells me that summer vacation is for undergraduates, k-12 students and the poor fools who sold their souls and are working in public education. Most likely, from this point out I will always be working through the summer. Unless I get a pimp job as an tenured academic librarian and can take summer sabbaticals.

But.....It also means I'm forced to study and concentrate when the Pacific Northwest is in it's most glorious...

I guess I should just put my nose to the grindstone, whining about it certainly isn't going to make it any easier.

In terms of my blog, I'm still going to try and maintain weekly posts, but they're probably going to much briefer than usual, more along the lines of posting interesting tidbits I find through my internet dalliances. Don't worry - I'll still try to add my unsolicited opinions....

In that vein, here are two great morsels that I recently stumbled upon:

When I started this blog I had a post (Things are changing...) about Cushing Academy's library renovation - and the fact they discarded all of their books. I followed up with another post about how I thought that this was a dangerous move in Portrait of a book as a library item. Here is an update in the Cushing Academy saga: Headmaster says eliminating books in library is working fine. Of course he's going to say that. What else would he say? "Oops, my bad. Looks like we need to buy back all those books we just tossed." I hope Cushing Academy's Library still has an Inter Library Loan at the very least...

In a similar, yet radically different, vein here's another story about book-less libraries: InfoLadies of Bangladesh revolutionize rural life. It highlights the amazing power information holds and how access to information can be such a fundamental, yet essential, tool to increasing quality of life.

I hope you hang in there keep reading Dewey's Not Dead, and enjoy some summer for me!