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?

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.) 

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.

Open Thread Thursday: We Happy Few

I’ve been overdue for a blog banner change for about a month or so. As much as I love the badass librarian bit with the flamethrower background, I got a little inspired by the ALA Annual conference that is starting tomorrow. I won’t be down in the Big Easy to enjoy it and see all the people I know, but this month has been a monster. To put a fine point on it, I just didn’t have the bandwidth.

At any rate, I recalled this quote when I was looking for inspiration for a banner replacement. For myself, it is quite apropos as I think about the conference. As tremendously overwhelming and complicated as the ALA organization is, creating initiatives and change is possible when groups of like minded people find each other. I see it in the various groups I interact with: the ALA Think Tank, Library Society of the World, Hack Library School, and a coterie of my fellow New Jersey librarians.

Don’t misunderstand this as a “hey, we’re all in this together!” sort of post; this is more of a “find your tribe” call. If you don’t see anyone working on the things you want to garner attention, start doing it. Eventually, you will find the others or they will find you. This doesn’t have to be at the ALA level or state level; it can be what you want it to be. Having started my own movements towards the change I want to see, it is just a matter of doing. That initial step is the hardest one.

Who are your tribes? Who are the like minded people you seek? Have you found them?

That’s the opening question for this open thread, but as the conference is upon us, please feel free to share your expectations. Or just speak what’s on your mind. 

Open Thread Thursdays: Thought Leaders?

This is the first time I’ve been able to put fingers to a keyboard in any meaningful non-work fashion all week. Having spent the last few evenings visiting the good librarians of SLA at their conference in Philadelphia, the face-to-face socializing has taken precedence over the social media monitoring. My Google Reader is pushing the 1000+ count, my email is full of neglected correspondences, and Twitter is all but forgotten.

But the message from the TEDxLibrariansTO people I got a couple days back has been sitting on the top of this pile as they have been asking for videos discussing their theme for the conference which is “librarians as thought leaders”. As I tackle the question myself, I thought I’d toss it out there.

Are librarians thought leaders? If so, why? If not, why not? And feel free to narrow the context and scope of your answer.

As always, while I’ve given a starter topic, this is an open thread. Post what you feel and anonymous replies are welcome.

Open Thread Thursday: Advance Token to GO

This past week the big news was EBSCO’s acquisition of H.W. Wilson. With this move, it raises some old concerns and fears about having a small number of companies with a large amount of subscription content. I don’t believe I’d have to go too far to find a disgruntled story about bad dealings with database vendors when it comes to subscription bundles and pricing. I’m not suggest that is the case here (time will certainly tell), but when the number of companies providing major amounts of databases grows smaller, it creates a smaller marketplace.

So, here’s the question for the thread: should librarians be concerned about this merger? Or is it just business as usual in the (relatively) free market? What should the profession be looking for when library vendors buy out or merge with their competition?

Reminder: this is an open thread. You can take the suggested topic or toss out something else on your mind. Anonymous posts are still accepted.

Open Thread Thursday: Summertime

(Wanna feel old? This song came out 20 years ago. Yeah.)

With the arrival of Memorial Day weekend, the summer officially begins. (Nevermind what the calendar says in regards to that statement.) June also means that the ALA Annual Conference is near, returning librarians to The Big Easy once more. While I will not be attending this year (and pretty sad about it too), I did want to redo something that I did last year: the ALA new conference attendee Twitter list. This was last year’s new attendee list to give you an idea of what it looked like last year and who was on it.

The list is currently empty, so I need the names of Twitter librarians who are going to their first ALA this year. I’ll be advertising it on Twitter (of course) and looking to get more names to the list. It’s a neat list especially once you get to the conference and can check out what other new people are doing. Or the more experienced attendees can check out what the new folks think and maybe invite them out to an event or two. (And ALA does keep an eye on it; well, the all seeing eye of Jenny Levine, that is.)

Otherwise, this is an open thread. Talk about conference stuff or whatever.

Open Thread Thursday: School’s Out Forever

As the education year winds down with the start of summer, there are school librarians across the country who will not be returning in the fall. Whether they have been determined to be “not teachers” by an administrative court, being cut from the budget, or still working to save school libraries, these past two weeks have been wicked evil to this end of the profession. On top of that, the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries program was eliminated from the Department of Education. (I presume the innovation that the President spoke about at the State of the Union address will be for student to find new ways to develop research skills.)

What the fuck is going on here?

While I’m happy that ALA has put an open letter out there for the LA school librarians, it still makes me wonder: how’d things get to this point?

This week’s open thread suggested topic: school librarians. How to help them and how to save them. Why? Because they are part of the library ecosystem.

If you’re a school librarian, share what other librarians should know but maybe don’t and what the rest of us can do to help.

If you’re not a school librarian, share what you think can be done to increase awareness and communication with our school librarian peers. What do you want to know and be kept up to date about?

While this is the suggested topic, this is an open thread. Share what’s on your mind. And anonymous comments are still welcome.

(h/t: Cathy Jo Nelson, since I stole liberated a number of links from her Facebook page.)

Open Thread Thursday: Save Our [fill in the library name here]!

In the last twenty four hours, I’ve been asked to save two different libraries. The first was the Brooklyn Public Library from a blog post by Rita Meade (if you are not reading her blog, you should be). It has the familiar budget-pocalypse to it that reminds me of the fight in New Jersey last year. The second was a link on Facebook to save the Oaklyn Public Libraries by Amy Sonnie (another librarian who I had the pleasure of meeting at the NJLA conference last week). There’s certainly more budget news around the country in the past month, but the way these came across my feeds like a one-two punch inspired me to write about it for the open thread.

I can remember back a year ago being chest deep in the New Jersey advocacy efforts. By this time last year, we had the rally at the State Capitol buildings (a first for the organization) and were pressing hard to get people to sign postcards, call, write, and do whatever. I can remember passing news back and forth from Twitter and Facebook as people shared every shred of news that came out.  It was a tough time to think about losing the regional library cooperatives and just trying to climb back from a 74% cut. School libraries got creamed all over the state as the education funding was cut back severely; it was cringeworthy as school librarians (considered administration, not teachers) got chopped left and right.  Academic libraries held on but I’m sure there was less materials on their shelves and less services offered overall. NJ libraries did relatively well this year (with some very notable exceptions going on right now), but it makes me think of the road ahead.

That brings me to the topic: what do you think we should do to get off the yearly budget drama cycle? What are you doing now to accomplish that? What are the trends you see coming out?

Just a reminder: even though I have suggested a topic, this is an open thread. Anonymous comments are allowed as well as other topics. Now, share what’s on your mind.

Open Thread Thursday: 641 Edition

At lunch on Tuesday at the conference, the conversation was dominated by cooking. Perhaps it is only natural to be that hungry and wanting nothing more than to talk about food, perhaps it was the tasty Greek food we were going to devour. It wasn’t so much a recipe swap as it was about cooking philosophy and what foods people love. Hell, the conference even had a session called “Recipe Reference 101”. It might be my own hunger right now as I get ready for work that is guiding this topic right now, but I think something a bit on the lighter side (no pun intended) would be good.

For myself, I take the Anthony Bourdain approach as I read it in his book, Kitchen Confidential: simple, good ingredients. Not too many, just enough to bring out the flavors that you are looking for. I’ve taken this approach to heart by picking up The Flavor Bible and using that as my starting point for cooking. I’ve discovered many simple and fun flavor pairings while doing my own experimenting. It turns the cooking experience into a creative experience.

So, do you cook? If so, what do you love to cook? If not, what food moves your soul?

As always, this is an open thread. That’s the starter topic, but if you have something else in mind, go for it.