Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Baty and David Roberts

maker storytime booklist – #vmmf 2014

I made the trek to the mainland last weekend to do stuff at the BC Libraries Cooperative-sponsored Makerbrarians booth for the Vancouver Mini Maker Faire.

I had a heap of picturebooks that fit in with the idea of maker culture at our makers in libraries booth. I did get to do some storytimes, but I realized what a bad librarian I was when I didn’t have a booklist to give people. So terrible. But here’s one!

Booklist

I divided it into two sections, because there are a bunch of picturebooks out there about building stuff with tools, which is great, but while tools are important to makers I see the culture of invention (and the different paths we take to make things) as being even more important to tell stories about.

I haven’t labelled them for ages or reading levels because I really try to fit the book to the individual. They cover a wide range of complexities though.

Culture of Invention & Problem Solving

Building Things

There was loads of awesome non-librarian stuff going on at VMMF too. My buddy got a cheese-making kit. I got a collapsible cardboard soundstage with LED lights to make movies with. I did not ride the mechanical snake though.

#precarityis what happens to the best minds of my generation

My fellow librarian (and Tolkien nerd-king) Myron (of Bibliocracy fame) is tweeting about precarious work under the #precarityis hashtag. It’s an important issue that goes far beyond libraryland, but that’s what I know because that’s the kind of job I’ve looked for recently, so that’s where this post pretty much mucks about.

One of the basic precarity issues, and this is something that people who aren’t lower mainland librarians sometimes don’t get, is the prevalence of no-guaranteed-hours librarian jobs in and around Vancouver. These jobs aren’t things you can count on to actually pay your rent. You might be able to cobble together enough shifts to do it, especially if you’re working for multiple library systems. Maybe you can snag a maternity leave term position to cover for a year, but then you get kicked right back to picking up shifts where you can.

Those on-call jobs are a terrible thing to do to workers and it’s bullshit that library systems are built on exploiting them. In my library system (which is not perfect by any means) we have three (I think) such positions, but the vast majority of librarians are full-time unionized workers with benefits and pensions and all that. Part of that is because we aren’t as desirable a workplace as Vancouver et al. And this is why I no longer live in Vancouver, though I like it more than any other city I’ve called home.

I hate that argument so much. When I tell people “Well, I went where the job was” that makes it sound so easy, like there’s no cost for these benefits. That everyone else could do it too, and if they don’t they’re dumb. Fuck that.

I am one of the absolutely fucking lucky ones.

Like any job some things suck and some are pretty good about mine, but I don’t think everyone could or should have to do move to a small town where they don’t know anyone in order to make a living doing meaningful work. I do not like the town where I live, but I don’t have to worry about my bike being stolen and losing shifts because without it I can’t afford to get to work. I have to travel five hours to hang out with my friends, but I have health benefits.

I’m adaptable enough to have an internet social life and not be totally depressed. I think of this job in this town like being in China. I did that for two years and didn’t even have any English books to read. But I’m weird like that, and that’s not how everyone else is. I also have no dependents and I’m one of those assholes who isn’t burdened with student loan debt. Like I said, absolutely fucking lucky.

Which isn’t to say it doesn’t suck. I wish I lived in a place where I had friends, or at least people who shared my interests (which aren’t hunting and fishing). Avoiding that whole on-call librarian bullshit is a good economic strategy, but it’s not like I want a life lived by the most self-involved economic strategy. (Which, yes, boohoo. Privileged dude isn’t feeling socially fulfilled. Let’s all stop and pay attention.) The way this insidious system sneaks in is to make me feel like one of the lucky ones now, so how could I ever leave? I should be damned grateful. If I lose this job what happens next?

This is how you make a timid workforce that won’t challenge any sort of status quo. I had my run-in with my place of work last year and you’d better believe I backed down from fighting my intellectual freedom battle because I did not want to be fired. (I maintain that the most impressive thing about Myron’s rabble-rousing library activism is that he does it without any professional security at all.) Public librarians don’t get tenure. We tend to have unions, but for some reason changing the way this workforce is structured isn’t a priority. Around Vancouver most librarians I know and graduated with, get to work as much as they can today to get through the drought tomorrow. Catie writes very well about what the precarious life does to a person’s psyche even once they’ve got a good job.

So yeah. It’s a terrible time to be a lot of things. You should read Sarah Kendzior‘s Al Jazeera stuff on how this plays out in academia. Some people can get by, but secure employment is a thing of the past for most everyone who hasn’t pulled up the ladders behind them. It hasn’t always been this way and it shouldn’t be now.

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.

book review: dingers

Dingers is an anthology of short stories and poems about baseball. It’s also a Canadian anthology which is kind of neat. There were stories about the Expos and a leprechaun-assisted pitcher for the Vancouver Canadians. Dave Bidini had a story in it, and his was the only name I recognized.

The story of the author who had to pitch for a library visit was kind of memorable, as was the aforementioned leprechaun story, but as a whole the book didn’t set me on fire or anything. I think the reason might be because of how much baseball journalism I read, which twisted my notion of what this anthology would try to do.

book review: the measure of a man

Our town recently held a writers’ festival. I’d read at least something by most of the writers beforehand, but not JJ Lee. Well, his readings and talking about other people’s books completely sold me on his book The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit.

It’s a story about becoming an apprentice tailor, and about Lee’s childhood, and about his troubled relationship with his father, and about how important the clothes that we wear are, how they are ways we express our identity and the selves we want to be. Reading this book I learned how the lapels are the sexiest part of a suit, and how ticked off old Chinese tailors still are about jeans.

But Lee writes compellingly about his family too. At the festival his performances were incredibly crowd-pleasing and funny, and then he’d read a bit about sinking into the closet filled with the smell of his now-gone father and you’d want to cry. It’s an impressive impressive piece of work about intimacy among men. And now I kind of want to dress a little better.

book review: dark inside

Dark Inside is Jeyn Roberts’ multi-perspective YA novel about a kind of apocalyptic event that happens after a huge earthquake hits North America’s west coast. Cities are destroyed, yes, but a kind of evil is unleashed, not just at the earthquake site but in everyone’s souls. The book follows a scattered bunch of teenagers as they try to deal with the end of the world.

The book feels like a zombie book, since everyone aside from our protagonists has changed into bloodthirsty terrible murderers, but they haven’t gone brainless, just embraced their inner evil. This evil inside everyone is left pretty nebulous, as is the reason why the characters we’re following are spared it. The people who have turned (so most of the population) are terrible and terrifying, and some of the scenes are pretty intense. It would make for the kind of movie I couldn’t really watch, myself.

The teens are all eventually converging on Vancouver for various reasons (looking for a lost brother, keeping a promise to someone met on the road from Saskatoon, that kind of thing) and there are plenty of good scenes on the way. People feel survivor guilt and show survival skills and all in all it’s pretty good. And props to the book having interesting First Nations characters who didn’t feel like stereotypes. They weren’t the main characters but they were there, doing stuff like the rest of the kids with their own specific problems and issues.