my job situation

Hi. This is an update on my work situation. My boss at the high school where I work let me know that they will be discontinuing drop-in time [and the accompanying library support that went along with it] effective, well, now. I know a lot of people haven’t really understood what I did there in the first place, so let me spell it out, in past tense.

I worked super part-time [somewhere between 5-10 hours a week]. I staffed a drop-in lab two afternoons a week where people who needed extra computer assistance could come use a computer or just ask a question. I also did outreach to local libraries who had tech questions. Over the past three years, I worked with maybe nine tiny libraries; a few I worked with regularly. I also, as a separate job, taught evening adult ed technology classes. I may still do that.

Drop-in time was never super popular and on occasion it was empty. The last Summer we didn’t have a lot of attendance and so we were going to not do drop-in time this Summer. I was looking forward to some time off. Instead, the program got cut entirely. Funding is tight all over and even though my total salary there was less than 10K, it’s money that could be spent elsewhere. I’m sure there are some politics involved, but I’m lucky to not be involved with them. My (former) boss is a wonderful person. Her boss is stuck between a rock and a hard place, I suspect. His boss is the school district superintendent.

I’ve often said during my 2.0 talks that we count the wrong things in libraries. That we measure door count more than we look at website traffic. That we pay attention to phone reference more than IM reference. That we ignore certain aspects of outreach and preference “traditional” library services. I kept meticulous stats at this job. I did 105 service hours this semester. I helped 32 people, many of whom were adult ed students needing extra help. Some were high school teachers. Some were librarians. Most were active community members and I could watch their improved skillsets directly impacting the community — the garden club brochure, the choral group’s mailing list, the hospital chaplain’s holiday card list, the vocational training woman’s email address book — in positive ways. I helped older people be less isolated. I helped uncertain people feel more competent.

However, there’s no check box for “improved quality of life” on the reporting forms at the vocational high school. I’m of two minds about all of this. It feels weird to feel sort of fired. On the other hand, I know it’s not personal. I’ve also been ramping up my public speaking and spending more of my time and attention elsewhere and was, in fact, looking at cutting back hours so maybe this is a baby-bird-out-of-nest situation. I need to move on, maybe. This is not about the money, I’m set for money, incidentally. I have other jobs, they pay well.

I am welcome, I am pretty sure, to scare up grant money and continue to work there, they just can’t pay me and no one has enough free time to help me with that. I don’t want to just volunteer and I’m a little frustrated that at this point that’s the only way the program will continue. I do fill-in desk hours occasionally at the local library. One of the other local libraries would like to hire me to do ILL and automation work for them, but I’m waiting for a contract, something more than a “yeah we’d like that.” People still call me with questions and it feels really wrong to say “sorry I’m not on the clock anymore…” I like this small community and have felt useful here, much more than I did when I was a public librarian, much more than I did when I was in Seattle.

I’ve felt, without being too grandstandy here, that I’ve changed lives in exactly that way we say that librarians do that. I’d hate to think that I’m looking at a failure of marketing or “proving my value” but there’s always that nagging feeling when something like this happens. Now I have to find a way to keep “changng lives” that outside of what had become my normal routine. I talk about the digital divide a lot, and this is me and my program falling right into it. The chasm is deep and wide.

Vermont Library Association conference this Tue/Wed

I’ll be heading up to Burlington for the Vermont Library Conference both to attend and to present. I’ll be giving a talk on how I got the VLA website up and running with WordPress and Meredith and I will be presenting a Top Tech Trends talk on Wednesday. Both talks are at 1:45 if you happen to already be in the area. I’m looking forward to schmoozing with some of my favorite librarians and just generally immersing myself in Vermont library culture. Please say hi if you’re in the area.

Saskatchewan Manitoba Libraries Conference talk

I’m getting to the point where I’ve been writing my talks out more, rather than having points in my slides that I elaborate over. This is partly a result of doing more “big picture” keynote/endnote type talks but also just because they seem to go better and I’m more at ease beforehand. I did the endnote talk for the Saskatchewan-Manitoba Library Conference last week (say that to the Customs guy at the border and watch his eyes glaze over really fast…) and I’ve put up both a PDF of the slides as well as the whole talk as I’ve written it. Some of it is still ad-libbed, I have notes like “tell Katrina story” and, my favorite, “wrap up” but I figured some people might like to read a talk start to finish. Thanks are due to all the wonderful librarians who I met and talked with. Next time I’m up that way I hope to be able to actually see some libraries and not just the inside of the conference center.

Plug: Intellectual freedom: Fundamentals and Current Events

Just a quick note, I am teaching a one-day continuing education class at Simmons’ Mount Holyoke campus on Sunday afternoon, March 30th. The topic is Intellectual Freedom, basically providing the foundations of the idea and then going over current topic type issues that we’ve seen in libraryland lately. Here’s the official description. If you’re in need of CE credits or just want a refresher, feel free to sign up.

The importance of intellectual freedom is a cornerstone of modern librarianship in the US, and yet for many people is only understood as an abstract idea. This workshop will cover the foundations of intellectual freedom in American librarianship and provide concrete examples of how the concept applies to today’s library environment.

We will look at the Library Bill of Rights, the Freedom to Read Statement, and state library privacy laws as well as legislation which abridges the freedoms of library workers and library users. We will discuss the thorny issues that arise when intellectual freedom principles conflict with local practices and cultures and ways to unpack and address those issues. Social software and its implications for intellectual freedom in libraries will be another facet we will address. Participants will gain an understanding of ALA’s work laying down the foundation for intellectual freedom and leave with concrete examples of IF in action in today’s libraries.

Teaching Tech – a talk for the Michigan Library Consortium

I gave a talk this afternoon for a one day workshop given by the Michigan Library Consortium about teaching technology in libraries. It was a keynote-ish talk so more “big picture” talking and less “this is how we do it.”

To that end, I did a new-from-the-ground-up talk about technology instruction and even wrote out notes for all of my slides so people who weren’t there could maybe follow along later. As anyone who has seen me speak knows, I tend to extemporanize (sp?) quite a bit so while the bones of the talk are in the notes, I also told a lot of stories about the libraries I work in and waved my hands around a lot. You can see the notes and a mov or pdf of the slides here: Teaching Tech in Libraries: what are we doing?

I’m still trying to find a good way to put slideware talks online without having to re-give the talk and toss it into Slideshare. Big thanks to all the folks from Michigan for being such a great audience and Twitterfolks for giving me some good advice. (go be Flickr friends with Kevin to see more (admittedly, not that fascinating) photos of this event)

Computers in Libraries welcomes me

Jessamyn Joins Us

If you’re at ALA you may have already seen this issue of Computers in Libraries. If not, you may be interested to know that I’m going to be co-editing (well alternating writing) the Tech Tips Column with Rachel Singer Gordon.

It’s hard for wordy old me to give advice in 1300 words but I do my best and even include a screenshot or two. I have the right to post my columns ninety days after they’re published in print so they’ll show up here eventually as well. The January issue has my advice on how to examine your web logs to figure out how, when and where users are accessing your website. The column I put to bed just today (I guess technically it’s a department, Dan Chudnov, now he has a column) due out in March is about Open Source software. I’m a little sad to see my favorite editor, Kathy Dempsey, move on to bigger and better things and I’m a little nervous about getting edited again, but so far it’s been great and just another way to get the word out.

talk: what do do when your change agent is broken

I gave a talk yesterday at the NEASIS&T event in Providence Rhode Island. I was psyched to present with John Blyberg and Jill Stover (also at Designing Better Libraries) who have very different backgrounds but both gave great talks. I pulled the “after lunch” slot which is sort of what happens when I ask to not speak before 11 am but I thought it went really well. ASIS&T get togethers are generally a really good time because they are often filled with accomplished and interesting people. I’m not sure why this is, but it’s definitely something I’ve noticed. The topic for the day was From Guerilla Innovation to Institutional Transformation: Information Professionals as Change Agents which to me sounded a little silly, — I have change agent reflux disease — but everyone made really nifty stuff out of it and we had a good time despite being in a really weird room with iffy wireless.

Buoyed my my recent presentation in Michigan, I decided to write the talk I really wanted to give and talk a bit about how my activist background has informed my current work. Sometimes you have to say that something sucks [my suggestion is to go for "suboptimal"] and write a manifesto to get noticed, but that these are okay tacks to take if you’re really solving the problems and can do it without being a jerk yourself.

Anyhow, I did another Keynote presentation — I’m still in favor of a no-PowerPoint approach generally but I’m learning other methods for other occasions — and you can see my slides and links online here: Sleeper 2.0 – Agitprop problem solving. Thanks to Jill and John for giving such excellent talks and thanks also to ASIST&T for inviting me.

Hello Chronicle of Higher Ed readers/listeners

I knew something was up when I got an email from the President of the Vermont Library Association this morning saying “Wow nice podcast!”

I was pretty sure she wasn’t referring to the MetaFilter Podcast — though those are quite nice — so I emailed her back asking wtf as politely as I could. That’s how I learned that the interview I did with the Chronicle of Higher Education from a hotel room in Halifax (setting the alarm so I could be alert at 9:30, do I sound like I just woke up?) was part of the CHE podcast and was excerpted, along with the succinct commentary from many other “young librarians” (oh gosh, I laugh and laugh) including my pal Casey and other names you’ll recognize. I’m not entirely sure how to link to CHE articles for non-subscribers, but you can maybe see the article and the amusing iphone photo here. Apologies, as always, for swearing.

four talks in six days in two countries

If the title sounds familiar, it’s because it is. I’ve been trying to combine more of my public speaking trips which means more weird weeks like this one and that one, but it works out a lot better on my end. After I got back to Massachusetts from Access, I drove over to NELA and gave three talks there. I really enjoy NELA but there were some complications this time around mostly involving iffy wireless (and hotel staff who were just repeating what their outsourced IT told them which the IT-librarians knew was a little fishy-sounding, but I digress) which means I wasn’t doing much blogging and had a period of radio silence here and on Flickr and on Scrabulous, etc.

I got home today and I’ve uploaded the latest talks. One was all new, one was a modified version of an earlier talk and one was a talk I gave earlier, but with twice as much time. All of them went really well but I have a sore throat and will be heading to bed as soon as they’re linked here so that I can be bright and bushytailed for work which starts tomorrow. Thanks to everyone who made my trip easier, more pleasant, and fun.

Access 2007 – quick report from the floor

My talk went well. It was scary (keynote!), early (8:30!), and multimedia (slides, video, me doing the blah blah part). I have this problem basically not being able to remember a thing I said after I get off the microphone BUT this time I wrote the talk out first, and this time I think it was even recorded. I’ll keep you posted on that. Here are my slides, notes and some more links. Thanks to everyone who paid close attention, blogged about it, and/or laughed at my jokes, and thanks to the conference planners for inviting me and encouraging me to make the trip.