Open Thread Thursday: Movin’ On Up

This week’s open thread starter topic comes by way of my fellow New Jersey librarian Lindsey Meyer who replied in an earlier post when I was asking for open thread ideas. She wrote:

How about a Thread on “pulling up stakes” in preparation for moving on, choosing what or whom to leave behind, and deciding what makes it through to the next round? Or even just the simple pleasure of leaving the old thought patterns behind: flushing the radiator, so to speak. Not to mention the challenges of keeping one’s balance through the process.

In thinking about it myself and trying to apply to the library world, I can see it applying two ways. First, in the most literal sense, it would be applied to a position change. What kinds of thoughts and things do you want to take with you? What do you leave behind? For myself, it’s about remembering the lessons and keeping them in mind. It’s a simple notion but a powerful one in my estimation; it is the learning process as it relates to both success and failure. It’s more ingrained in me and less in the position or title that I held. Quite frankly, it is something that shapes the person I am as I move forward.

Second, I can see it as an evolution that happens in the position or employment you are in. You start out with certain ideas and expectations; then, as time goes by, things can morph a job into a new reality. What do you take forward with you as the job progresses? What do you leave behind? I guess that is a much more nuanced question as it can be both good and bad, but I would like to think that I would carry forward my sense of purpose. As in, that I still have a job to do and while it has changed in its duties, it has not changed in the end product. (Not an easy or precise explanation, but I’m sticking with the spirit of it.)

So, your thoughts: what do you carry forward? What do you leave behind? How has your ideas, concepts, and notions about the library and your place in libraryland evolved?

“Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

The last half-week have been a bit all over the place.

Starting with last Thursday, Nancy Dowd and I presented at the ALA Virtual Conference. I’ve presented with Nancy before (well, I spoke at one of Nancy’s presentations) and I knew we were going to have a fun time. The phone conversations and emails we exchanged as we got ready for the presentation were a blast. I hope that excitement carried over to the presentation itself. (I’m thinking about recording it using Jing and posting it so people can see my portion at another time.)

With the presentation done, it was onwards to moving. I moved to the Bordentown area which puts me within walking distance of work. It’s a nice little apartment and I’m pretty much all settled in, but not without stressing myself out about the move, the timing of the truck rental, and the timing of Verizon to hook up my cable since it overlapped. I have some mighty awesome friends who came to help me; I owe them a debt of gratitude on this one!

The weekend was a mix of unpacking, shopping for all those missing things in the apartment, and just generally relaxing. I’m pretty much set now, having stocked the kitchen with food that I will try not to ignore in favor of convenience and other quick prepared foods.

Today was about going to into work in the morning and then reporting for jury duty in the afternoon. I was walking around Mount Holly where the county seat is for Burlington County when I managed to trip on a one inch curb and then do that lurching forward motion where you try to regain your balance. After a few steps, it was obvious that gravity was not in my favor and I was delaying the inevitable. I landed on my side and rolled, avoiding scrapping the hell out of my hands and knees but not my pride. So when I arrived at the jury duty room, I was sweating from the heat outside, dusty from the roll on the ground, and feeling the impact of the ground on various parts of my body. A good way to start the day.

As I was selected to serve on a jury, that’s all I can say about that for now. But I’m going to declare a holiday for myself while I perform my civic duty.

There is one bit of business I’d like to toss out there: a starter topic for Thursday’s Open Thread. If you got one, name it! I’ll write up a little blurb and post it on Thursday.

Open Thread Thursday: Rock Lobster

New Jersey ex-pat and fellow librarian Tom Bruno wrote a post recently entitled “Rock Stars and Superheroes” where he talks about the status of rock star librarians or celebrarians or whatever you want to call librarians that are known within the community. I’m flattered that he would call me out specifically and in such excellent company. Here’s the money quote:

We’re all so busy grinding through our daily workflows, monthly statistics, and annual reports that it’s easy to lose sight of what makes our job so awesome:  listening to people who are in need of information, navigating our library’s resources in order to locate that one all-important thing, then sharing it, not for profit or personal advancement but for the expansion of human knowledge and the simple joy of sharing.  If you can imagine that exact feeling I’m describing and consider it one of the most wonderful things in the universe, then you might just be a librarian yourself.  Since then I’ve tried not to end my workday without finding a way to commit at least one random act of kindness, and I’ve found myself infinitely more energized as a librarian as a result.  I dare you to try it yourself…  there’s always room for another library superhero.

(Emphasis mine)

It’s a pretty timely post since I’m going to be making the case for the rock star librarian at the ALA virtual conference tomorrow at 11:30am (my co-speaker, Nancy Dowd, will be talking about librarians as advocacy deal makers).

While I don’t want to spoil the talk I’m going to give tomorrow, I thought it would be a great question set to toss out there in general. So, without further ado:

When you hear ‘rock star librarian’, what do you think that means? How do you feel about the term and why? Is it a term for good, for bad, or does it need to be retired?

I’m looking forward to the comments on this one.

That’s our starter topic for this open thread. Post away or talk about something else that’s on your mind. Anonymous comments are certainly welcome.

(Consider reading Will Manley’s American Libraries column for his take on library heroes.) 

ALA Virtual Conference 2011

Just a quick plug for the presentation that the lovely and talented Nancy Dowd and I are going to do at the ALA Virtual Conference this coming Thursday at 11:30am. Here’s the teaser for our talk:

“Advocacy Awakening: The Revolution in Recognition”

Are you tired of reporters only asking for quotes when a library closes? Do you wish they would call you about issues like copyright laws, eBooks and book banning? Are you fed up with people telling you they didn’t know libraries do more than lend books and DVDs? Pulling your hair out when you hear the stereotypes of librarians portrayed over and over again? We think its time for a revolution! Somewhere between passive and aggressive methods are ways for librarians to awaken their communities to the value they and their libraries provide. Andy Woodworth and Nancy Dowd will discuss esoteric ideas and practical ways for librarians to become rock stars and deal makers of advocacy.

I’ll be making the case for rock stars and Nancy will be giving the lowdown on what it takes to be a deal maker. I’m excited to be presenting and especially on this concept!

Yes, I can hear the sounds of eyes being rolled at the mere mention of the term ‘rock star’. But I encourage you to hear me out on this one. I think you’ll appreciate what I have to say on this… or you’ll get plenty of blog/Twitter/Facebook/Google+ ammo to blast away at me for even broaching the subject.

Looking forward to (virtually) seeing you there!

Are You a Library Scientist or a Library Artist?

“Are you a library scientist or a library artist?”

No, I’m not going to offer a definition of what each means. I’m leaving that up to you as part of posting an answer. But I’m going to guess that you know whether you approach your library work as a scientist or an artist. We have our own internal definitions as those terms; I’m just wondering how people see themselves when presented with this question.

Don’t think on it too much. Just go with the first answer that popped into your head. And if you are going to quibble and say both, then you really have to explain yourself.

Commence commenting, please!

“We have done the impossible, and that makes us mighty.”

A couple of days ago, the last space shuttle launch took place at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. As someone who grew up only knowing the space shuttle program, it was truly the end of an era. I certainly wasn’t the only one who got misty eyed to watch Atlantis lift from the launch pad and start its eight minute journey to orbit. From reading my various social media outlets, there were some strong feelings about the ending of the program and what the future of space exploration would entail. Later that night, the Science Channel had a special on the launch and everything that goes into making it possible; thus, the misty eyes returned once more.

Though I am now a long ways from being one, I shared the same dream as many other children my age did to be an astronaut, gliding high above the Earth right at the edge of a great vast beyond. Since then, I’ve traded one space for another, one of stars and planets for one of information and data. But that still doesn’t stop the sense of adventure and curiosity of wanting to go up and see, even as I harbor a well self-fabricated fear of flying. The desire for visceral tangible adventure is the product of the sensory creatures that human beings are; it is one that cannot be achieved through the online existence that many have settled for having.

It’s a pity that the majority of my memories around the space program come from the disasters associated with it. I remember where I was for the Challenger disaster (third grade and the fortune not seeing it live on television; I would see it later on the news that night). I remember where I was for the Columbia disaster (at home in my apartment in Delaware watching CNN on the tiny television that was in the bedroom). In between, there were launches and space walks, talk of space stations (first Mir and then current International one), and the transient interest of television reporters talking about budget cuts to the space program. Even now, the next generation of space telescopes is at risk of being shelved. And I feel frustrated once more.

I do wonder if the kids in elementary school now will still want to be astronauts when they grow up. I would hope so. And I would hope that our generation would be working on the next step of space travel to make that possible for them. What is it to dream big if we deny them all of the wonders that lay beyond the clouds? There must always be the promise and hope of space; it rests with us to make it possible.

[The title is a quote from the television series Firefly.]

Open Thread Thursday: Google vs The Public Library

I was reading Ned Potter’s post about being happy to never read another Google/library comparison again and it reminded me of something I had realized awhile back.

I used to wonder and worry about Google. How much of their work intrudes on the mission of libraries? What does it mean for the future of public libraries? Will I have a job in twenty years? Will technology and Google become so ubiquitous that the public library will be relegated to a niche support role in society? I’d lay in bed at night, unable to shut down my brain from this death spiral of thinking. But then I came to my own realization.

Libraries are not in competition with Google. Google is a tool. You do not get into fights with the equipment you use. That is like challenging a hammer to a nail pounding fight. It lets us look up the easy stuff faster so we can move onto the harder stuff. Who at a service desk wouldn’t want a tool like that? Librarians have dreamed about something that could put ready reference at one’s fingertips. Now that we have it, there is a perception of a threat. What gives?

Consider this thought: whether it knows it or not, Google wants public libraries. No, scratch that: it needs public libraries. We are the de facto in person customer support for Google. Public libraries are well positioned all over the US, staffed by friendly knowledgeable folks, and Google doesn’t have to pay our salaries. You think they want to get the customer service calls we get? That’s a negative.

Given the amount of internet service provided to the population, the continuation of the public library is in the best interests of any internet company that relies on the activity of its users to generate its revenue streams: Facebook, Twitter, Huffington Post, Big Government, every news or magazine or other site that relies on sharing to get its word out. I think there is a viable national scale advocacy effort in this as well. The existence of the public libraries allows people to use their services; as their services work around straight advertising and data mining, the less people with access to the internet means smaller data sets overall. I could make the connection to smaller revenues, but I don’t think it has an immediate cause-and-effect relationship since it is a matter of how that data is used.

Bottom line: Google (and other companies) are not competition for public libraries; they are tools to be used by libraries in the service of their communities. And they still need libraries.

(The same thing can be said for Wikipedia as I see it.)

What do you think? Is Google a threat? Or a tool? Or both?

This is an open(ish) thread. You can answer this thought or start your own.