winning awards

Around our workplace there’s a joke that we should all be putting “award-winning librarian” in our bios when we show up in the outside world. After all, who is to say that the participation award from your grade 4 track meet isn’t what made you the professional you are today? I’ve totally done it though. I called myself award-winning in the bio for a talk Jason and I gave at the Vancouver Island Library Staff Conference a few weeks ago, because I really did win an award for making radio back in journalism school. It seemed relevant as part of my radio librarian bona fides. But whatever.

I worry about winning awards in librarianship. The things I tend to do are, while not designed to be high profile, a bit different from the standard librarian things. Which isn’t to say I don’t love the nuts & bolts kind of work of figuring out the answer to a tricky question – that’s the reason I librarian at all – but I’ve always always always wanted to do something different from what other people are doing rather than do what they’re doing better. So I see people who are amazeballs at storytime, bringing in huge crowds and getting all that awesome early learning stuff in there and I want to leave that to them and go do something else, like our radio show, or e-privacy workshop type stuff. Which is fine and all. I get to do things I’m good at and let the people who are really good at the core libraryish things do them.

But then I get twitchy about this because I’m basically just taking advantage of the novelty of what I’m doing to get recognition or whatever. It feels like an ego-stroke, a lot like going to the BC library conference is the only place in this world where I “know people” which can be weirdly ego-inflating. And then the people who are doing the really great normal librarian stuff get left out of the recognition party, which sucks. I don’t want my flashy, kind-of-tangential-to-traditional-library-work projects to outshine my colleagues who are awesome in lower profile ways.

Anyway yeah. Which is to say, I’m sorry for self-promoting. I think what we’re doing with Librarians on the Radio is fun and a good use of my talents such as they are. We won a BCLA Merit award for it (well, our library did). It goes on the CV and we’ll try to keep on making shows I hope are deserving of the recognition all my colleagues should be getting.

at the bc library association conference #bclc2015

I’m heading down to Richmond for #BCLC2015 tomorrow. This year I’m going to be on 2 panels and work I did is receiving an award at the AGM on Saturday (though it’ll be people who make far more money than me who’ll be accepting it).

Both of these are panels, so it’s not like you’d have to listen to me gibbering the whole time. Come on out!

F16 – Looking Inwards and Out, New Professionals in Libraries
Friday 11:30am-12:15pm Location: Westminster 2

Fluctuating between idealism and cynicism, those new to library work can be passionate about the profession – for better or for worse. Join a diverse and enthusiastic panel for a discussion of the issues, concerns, and dreams of those who are new to, and just entering the field. What does the profession look like to new professionals? What does “professional” mean to new professionals? How would they like to shape the library world, and how is the library world shaping them? Is it constraining them or allowing them to grow in unexpected ways, or both? What are the issues within librarianship, or that librarianship is concerned with, that are most important to those who have recently entered the field? This session promises a lively discussion covering topics from what advocacy should look like and how we define ourselves as professionals, to what we can do to help with literacies, open access and creativity in our communities and our workplaces.

F22 – Oh Glorious Failures! Lightning Talks on How to Succeed Through Failure
Friday 1:30-2:45pm Location: Elmbridge

Conference sessions are often about putting our best foot forward, about sharing what went well, and about glossing over what didn’t work out. This session aims to turn things around by focusing on those times when we tried something new, or different, or innovative and, well, it didn’t quite work. By talking openly about failures and what we learned from them, we aim to explore ways to encourage innovation among staff, and to demonstrate what it means to build a creative institution that’s responsive to the needs of community members and other stakeholders. If failure is the only certainty in uncertain times, then it’s time to take back the word ʺfailureʺ and make it part of our success. Accepting failure as a tool for growth can be a successful method to give staff a safe way to take risks and innovate. During the session, staff from a variety of libraries (public, academic, special) will give lightning talks on their ʺglorious failuresʺ, how they overcame them (if they did) and share any insights gained. The goal of the session will be to transform this F-word, so attendees can unlearn the fear of failure and explore how to fail successfully. Through others’ stories of failure we will not only learn ways to avoid repeating mistakes, but how to effectively get it wrong the first time.

And then on Saturday VanCAF is happening. Good weekend ahoy. And if you’re interested in listening to the test episodes of my CHLY storytime show Librarianautica they’re on the Internet Archive too.

not quite a comeback

I’m moving! This upcoming week is my last one as a children’s librarian, which is sad, but my new job (with the same library system) is in a town I think I’ll be able to cobble together a bit more satisfying a life than up here, so it’s a good change.

See, I like doing storytimes. I like talking with kids about books and putting some excellent story or information in a young person’s hand so she can make new folds in her brain is awesome. But I’m not really a great early literacy specialist. I’m very conscious that when I do storytime I’m just reading kids stories and making them laugh, but we aren’t doing as much of that value-added educational stuff as real children’s specialists make happen.

My new job is on the information desk in a more urban branch. I think it’ll play more to my strengths so I can do really awesome stuff with our community rather than just the stuff I’m capable of doing. I’m planning to try to do more internet privacy/security type stuff and maybe help host the monthly librarian radio show and generally focus more on what we can do to ensure our librarianly freedom of information kinds of ideals from my place on the ground.

Speaking of which, there’s some interesting discussion of Vancouver Public Library’s shitty new Internet Use Policy out there. Check out Bibliocracy’s take Policy Politics Porn: VPL’s Public Internet Problem if you have a bit of time, or Metacate’s analysis of the situation if you want to read about it from a more pure policy-creation perspective: Shaking the Jar: VPL’s newly recommended policy on public internet use.

Also, and unrelated to the VPL thing, I’m no longer the co-chair of the BCLA Intellectual Freedom Committee. Doing committee work isn’t a very natural fit for me, and I didn’t feel I was doing a very good job of it. Then the time I spent worrying about how I was doing a bad job was building stress whenever I sat down to the computer and wasn’t addressing the issues at hand. That’s why I haven’t really been reviewing books in 2014. I’m much happier being off on my own to write my own shit as I feel like it.

I’ll be off on a vacation soon, but before then I hope to be getting some more writing up here.

plug for my talk at bc library conference 2014

Next week I’ll be speaking at the BC Library Conference in Vancouver. I’m sharing our small session with Library Journal Mover & Shaker Myron Groover and we’ll be talking about protecting our users’ privacy online (this’ll mostly be Myron) and how the way public libraries are commonly doing ebooks fucks with librarianly values (around privacy & other matters) and what we can do to change things up.

The session is called Life in a Glass House (Papering the Windowpanes). We’ll be posting our portions of the talk on our respective blogs (we aren’t big powerpoint kinds of people, and at least speaking for myself any slides we’d have would be too cryptic to mean anything so you’ll have to make do with text).

new job-like thing for my non-work hours

This month I almost forgot to renew my BC Library Association (BCLA) membership. I originally got membership as a student for free but now that I’m a totally legitimate professional, it costs money, so it’s something I can easily let slip through the cracks. But letting my membership lapse would be kind of awkward and weird at this point since I’m now officially a co-chair of BCLA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) with David Waddell. Woo!

In his “passing the baton” email to the BCLA and IFC lists the outgoing chair, Jon Scop, commented on how it’s kind of interesting to have an intellectual freedom leadership position going from one male children’s librarian to two male children’s librarians. To me it seems obvious that children’s librarians would be big intellectual freedom advocates.

This was banned books week in the states, and it’s totally commonplace at this point to note how many challenged books are kids’ books like Captain Underpants. Minors are a chunk of our society with very little power and there’s a huge swathe of society that wants to protect kids from ideas adults don’t want them to have. I see my role as a children’s librarian as serving kids, not their parents or teachers, which is quite fundamentally anti-elitist and subversive (one of the things I love about librarianship).

Saying “I can’t let you see that” to a segment of community members just because they don’t have a bunch of legal rights (to vote or drink or go to war or whatever) is kind of anathema to the librarian ideal. While teens are fierce defenders of their own intellectual freedom, librarians are natural adult allies, especially since we don’t have any real power over them (I suppose we can kick them out of the library), just expertise to offer. As a children’s librarian, part of my job is to take seriously what kids are interested in pursuing when they are looking for help, and not saying “Ugh, more Fairies/Pokemon/Sparkly Vampires?”

One of my formative kidbrarian experiences happened on my first day working a refdesk (which I blogged at the time). I’m still proud of my instincts to bring the 12-year-old kid over to the shelf where we kept Mein Kampf. In one of my post-MLIS job interviews I was asked what I’d do with an 11-year-old girl asking about Fifty Shades of Grey. In that interview I fucked up. I tried to make myself more hireable by waffling a bit and adding some more questions to my reference interview to make sure the kid knew it wasn’t a book for kids. Seriously, I hate that I did that and I totally blame the whole job-search process for making me less than confident in my ideals and whether someone would actually hire a kids librarian who wouldn’t blink at giving an 11-year-old steamy fanfic. That’s the kidbrarian I want and try to be.

Yesterday I was in a middle school talking to a bunch of 8th graders about the library and why we’re relevant to them. This was one of the things I stressed to them. In the eyes of our library, once they’re 13 they have adult cards and we won’t tell anyone what they’re borrowing. I told them that we don’t care if they want to read Pokemon comics (or other materials “below their level”) or Anais Nin. If we find something for them and it doesn’t work, we’ll try something else. That’s the whole point.

Anyway, all that is to say that youth librarians make total sense as intellectual freedom defenders (but I won’t subject you to my theories of why it makes sense there’d be a confluence of male children’s librarians doing this stuff, because I wouldn’t want to paint any other librarians with my weird gender-role identity issues). I’m looking forward to working with BCLA’s IFC on these issues, but as always whatever I say is just me talking, not official views on anything unless I clearly mark it as such. You can read our blog and follow us on Twitter.

BCLA Conference 2013

my 2013 bcla conference experience

I had an excellent time at BCLC 2013. A lot of that had to do with hanging out with colleagues and doing the whole “think about library issues” in person thing, rather than reading blog posts. Obviously I love blog posts and keeping up with people online is what I do, but it is nice to hang out (for example) at a table full of library techs with a drink and hear what kinds of things they’re dealing with. Or to sit in the sun on a Friday afternoon and discuss the horrors of capitalism and the challenges of optimism. I mean, this is something I just don’t get to do too often.

On the BCLA Info Policy Committee blog I’ve got a post talking about some of the IPC related things that went on. Even though Tara did a great job on the Hot Topics panel, watching it I really really wished I could have been up there participating (though I did get one question asked if not answered) and I think things might have gone a little bit more along these lines if I had.

Beyond that, I went to a very interesting session about how we advertise our early literacy programs on our websites. One of the things I’m bringing back to work is the idea to stop using stock photos and get real people involved doing real storytimish things (as opposed to the baby einstein motifs that you get a lot of in advertising).

I also went to the session on Fraser Valley Regional Library’s Service Mobile, which is an electronics-packed Nissan Cube thing that goes to homeless shelters to involve more people in the digital conversation. This is something I thought was pretty awesome and I think something we could at least put a proposal for in our library system.

The way I’d like to do it though is actually more like the MakerMobile (which was also at the conference on Saturday). On Thursday I got into Vancouver and instead of trying to catch the conference keynote speaker, I went to a Maker Education Meetup, where I met a whole bunch of people involved with 3D printers, education and MakerFaire. They were awesome (and thanks to Frank for getting a bunch of librarians out to the event). The Makers are less about buying fancy gadgets and more about being a mobile workshop to teach people how to use tools and make things themselves. It was actually kind of funny to see the two vehicles out in the conference parking lot. One all shiny and custom-electronicked up, and the other an old cargo truck with tools and clever benches in the back. I get that flashy is flashy, but man, the maker education folks really have my heart.

Last thing I did at the conference was do a few booktalks at the Ain’t on the Globe and Mail Bestseller List panel. I did that panel last year and had a great time. This year I talked about To Be Or Not To Be: That is the Adventure by Ryan North (& Shakespeare & YOU), and a little bit about Pirate Boxes and Unglued books and a great “craft of RPGs” book called Nightmares of Mine by Ken Hite. All of which was super fun, and I got a bottle of wine as a speaker present! For like four minutes of booktalking! So good.

Anyway, that was my conference. I like BCLA and it’s an organization I’m happy to be a part of. Our strategic plan includes advocacy as one of its first objectives and that sounds about right to me.

organizing professionally

Tomorrow begins my first conference as an employed librarian. Sort of. I actually won’t get into the city in time for the opening keynote so I’m going to a Maker Education event as soon as I hit town instead. But a pile of library-folk are going to be there

I’ve been trying to do more to get involved and though the British Columbia Library Association may not be super high prestige, I know and like people who do stuff with it. Since March(ish) I’ve been blogging for the Information Policy Committee, and I’ve been polishing up at least one YA book review for each issue of the Young Adults and Children’s Services section’s quarterly newsletter (YAACING) since I graduated (here’s the most recent issue). I’m doing a couple of short writeups of conference sessions for the BCLA Browser too. I would have been presenting on the Hot Topics panel at the conference this year but my employers expressed a preference for me not to do that, so I was replaced by the awesome Tara Robertson, who will kill it, I am positive.

I’m looking forward to this conference. I’m growing to appreciate hanging out with people and shooting shit about issues I’m interested in. Last weekend I was at a birthday party (in Vancouver) that had a high percentage of information professionals and sitting there talking about what it means if libraries become pointers at info instead of holders of info, or the travesty that there’s no wikipedia/git repository of MARC records, brought home why people live in cities instead of off in the hinterlands. Clustering people with different ways of looking at things does seem to make for better thought, which may be obvious but my distrust of groups of more than like 6 people needs some evidence every once in a while.

Which isn’t to say it’s not fun being the lone voice talking about high concept issues in our library (branch). There’s not a lot of pressure to turn those kinds of ideas into something tangible, because the energy isn’t focused in that direction. It’s possible that if I were in a place where innovation and awesomeness were required I’d fall completely flat. Here, I’m impressive because I can work Excel, and the fact that no one comes to my non-storytime events isn’t a huge deal.

Anyway, going to this conference is the kind of thing I need. It’ll be nice to talk about library issues (beyond stock rotation) with people in person instead of through my keyboard.