I remember where I was when I heard about the Columbine school shooting. I was in the dorm room of some of my friends (L302 at Stockton State College) when the news came across on CNN. I can’t remember if we were heading out to lunch, but I can still see that small television sitting on the top of the bureau. The horror of those early reports was coming across the screen. It was one of those moments that changed everything.

Last Friday, I was driving away from my parent’s place after having lunch with my dad when I turned on the radio. NPR’s Talk of the Nation: Science Friday was on… and they weren’t talking about science. I called my dad and asked him to turn on the TV to find out what’s going on. He told me that it was a school shooting, a number of people were dead, and that it was in Connecticut. I thanked him and hung up the phone. The day had already been a banner day for personal stress and this just finished me off. I went over to my girlfriend’s apartment and just sacked out on the couch, waiting for the day to be over.

The erroneous media reports are now starting to finally taper off as the broader factual picture is starting to emerge. The transition has been made to grasping at straws in order to find a reason or rationale behind this madness; this invariably draws the nutjobs and wackadoos out of the woodwork to present their baseless theories that do nothing more than affirm their worldview. There is much to be said about checking sources and ignoring people who are using these tragic events to push their ideological agenda, but my thoughts for this post are heading in other directions.

It’s not the first time I’ve ever had the thoughts, but I have wondered what I would do in the case of a shooter at my library. Normally these considerations are bundled up into a larger emergency preparedness line of thinking that includes fire evacuations, water damage, and medical situations. It’s a contest of inner wills as part of me really doesn’t want to think about it in light of the circumstances while the other half is pushing to make certain that some kind of plan is in place. Part of being prepared is working out a plan of action and a backup plan so that those thoughts take over rather than incapacitating fear or terror. Even then, the plan I have sketched in my head only covers me, not anyone else in the library.

Events like these make it easy to forget the joy of working with the public and how every day is a bit different than the next. I’d rather not consider everyone who enters the library to be a potential assailant. I don’t want to inwardly cringe when someone comes to the desk upset or angry about an issue with their account. I don’t want to evaluate interactions or modify my actions through the potential-yet-incredibly-remote danger filter. I know a sense of normal will return eventually, but that dark thought will be in the back of my mind for awhile.

I’m not naïve enough to think that something possibly couldn’t happen at my library, but I am comfortable with the idea that it would be highly unlikely. Not because my community is special in some magical way, but that the statistics bear out that other more common gruesome events are more likely. Still, I know I’m going to be on edge for awhile in the hopes that there will be no copycats to this monstrous act. I’m trying to remember how much good there is in the world and how I am working to be part of that. It’s the best thing to hold onto in tragedies like these.

Year End, 2012

Without trying, I’ve ended up on a blog vacation lately. I think the rationale falls between being on a downcycle of interest in writing (it happens) and a lack of interesting library topic matter. Yes, there are things afoot in the library world, but they are things that have not compelled me to put fingers to keys for the sake of blogging. I still continue to share links (on Twitter and now trying to revive my Facebook Page), but nothing has really cried out to me, “Hey, you should write about this!” I had been thinking about writing a year end post for over a week now, with different starts and points that I wanted to make ranging from cautious optimism, unmitigated gloominess, and pure navel gazing. Rather than continue the internal debate, I just decided to start typing and let the chips fall where they may.

As I look over at my project and idea board, it stands relatively empty and unchanged for the last month or so. The only “active” project on there is a note for EveryLibrary and it is there to just remind me to check in every now and again with its progress. Thanks to my highly selective personal amnesia and a finely developed sense of situational unfairness to myself, it made me wonder whether I had done anything this year. It was a review through my calendar that reminded me that I had helped organize a very successful local unconference (Handhelds in School Libraries), spoke at another conference (Computers in Libraries), attended the bi-annual Public Library Association conference in Philadelphia, hit the road with Sophie Brookover for the New Jersey Library Roadshow as part of Snapshot Day, and ran a rather robust adult program schedule at my library that included a seven week summer program series featuring local authors and artists as well as teaching weekly computer classes. So, as it slowly dawned on me, I have a warped sense of accomplishment. Some might find this list to be exhausting (a small few might think of this as the “before breakfast” list), but I finally came to terms that I had done something and that I will be exiting this year having made a difference.

To be honest, I’m pretty much enjoying not having much on my professional plate. My attentions have been focusing elsewhere lately, mainly to learning more country line dances as well as adding in swing and ballroom. In some respects, I’m finding it to be a much more satisfying pursuit as it starts to push the work-life balance backs towards equilibrium. I took two big vacations this year where there was nothing library related happening and it was (without a doubt) truly glorious. I am looking forward to a lot more of this kind of fun in the coming year.

In looking towards the new year through the professional lens (perhaps the obligatory portion of every year end post you’ll read from libraryland), I believe that next year will hold a lot of the same from this year. Ebooks? With the remaining large publishers in the process of merging, yep. Copyright? With the Wiley case heading to the Supreme Court, yep. Intellectual property (on the heels of SOPA and RWA bills) will be back in a bigger way. Budgets, especially those in school districts? Indeed. Database pricing and access (along with vendor practices) as seen as in Jenica Rogers vs. the ACS? Yeah. Combined with a reheated ongoing relevancy (non-)crisis, I think next year will look a lot like last year.

Awhile back, I wrote a post about librarians picking needless fights. I’m starting to rethink parts of what I wrote then. I think the departure point from last year to this one should be librarians picking more fights. Not frivolous ones like the Amazon lending service, but bigger ones that will start nailing asses to the wall on important issues like copyright reform, fair practices in eBook lending, vendor negotiation transparency, open access, and digital content rights. It needs to go beyond the underlying anger and frustration that dwells within online petitions and cosigned press releases statements. The transition that needs to happen is moving from well mannered “I wish they wouldn’t do that” anger to downright pitchforks-and-torches prom-scene-from-Carrie naked hostility. If the road to whatever collective future libraries have involves paving over obstacles set up by these organizations, then the line from the profession has to be “move or learn to breathe through asphalt”.

I’m guessing there will be some people reading this who will advocate for the continued use of the softer touch, let’s-be-partners approach that has been flailing away for the last couple of years. You are more than welcome to continue this fruitless strategy, begging to become an equal partner with groups that have no interest in libraries other than as subordinate customers. And when this fails yet again, I will be polite enough to mouth the words “I told you so” rather than speaking them. It is time to go beyond them to the content creators (authors, publishing faculty, etc.), customers and constituents, and even the laws that control the intellectual property realm.

I’m hoping for a bloodier, it’s-on-like-Donkey-Kong year for library issues. The long time simmer is vastly overdue to reach a boil. Libraries aren’t going anywhere and it is high time to raise our flag high again in disputed territories.

Happy holidays and a happy new year, folks.