Two things to mention here
1. I finally saw Desk Set. I have no idea how I not only managed not to see it before but also how I even missed the theme which is whether computers will ever really effectively (and cost-effectively) be able to do our jobs.
2. ALA is going on right now and I’m not there. Each year there is usually some sort of “Librarians, they are really great!” press release around this time which often winds up in my various mailboxes by various sources. This year it’s this one: APNewsBreak: Librarians to help with health law. Which, hey great, librarians they’re still there doing their jobs. Good for them. The thing that is so weird about this, to me, is it’s basically implying though not outright stating that librarians will be doing this work 1. officially and 2. as part of some nationwide project. Neither is true as near as I can tell. I asked over at ALA Think Tank for people to give me an update on what was happening at ALA (at this program) which further confused me.
The only real fact we got from that article is that OCLC got an IMLS grant to create training materials to help librarians do this. Today I got this press release from Meredith (thank you!) that seems to say that OCLC got $286,000 from IMLS to create training content on WebJunction to help libraries help patrons with the new heath care law. And then, amusingly as I was driving from Massachusetts to Vermont trying to find a radio station, I heard some right wing talk show radio host who was MAD that librarians were going to have a part in the “indoctrination” by the “regime” that was doing the health care stuff. Sheesh.
In summary: librarians are still doing their jobs. OCLC/WebJunction are getting money to (maybe) help us to do them, lots of people get the wrong idea about libraries’ role in helping the people who have been digitally divided.
Right after I got back from New York, Hurricane Sandy hit and I spent a lot of time in the quickweb spreading links about how people could help libraries affected by Hurricane Sandy (you still can – NJ, NY) and making my own donations. A week after that I also got the news that I’d been elected Justice of the Peace of my small town in Vermont. This is neat news. Similar to my stint on ALA Council a long time ago, I’ve often felt that helping people different from you to solve their problems often involves working from the inside. So in addition to weddings, local JPs help out with elections and tax abatement hearings and it seemed like a good way for me to get involved. Because I didn’t know much about this position, I’ve been doing (surprise!) a lot of research and I’ve been collating that into a post-a-day blog called For Great Justice. Feel free to read if you’d like to.
I have also still been reading a lot of the trade publications and the usual Twitter/Facebook/blog stuff, I’ve just been doing a poorer job of radiating it outward. The latest thing I’ve been reading that has made an impact is this long ALA Think Tank discussion of a blog post by Stephen Abram about managing “hig potential” employees or, as he puts it, The Rock Star Dilemma.
As I may have mentioned in the past, I have this problem. Not like “Oh I am so terrific at work all the time!” but that I have a lot of energy and ideas and have often found that in real-world library jobs this is not only not appreciated (okay, that’s fine) it’s actively discouraged, de-emphasized and occasionally disparaged. This bums me out. So it was interesting to read the long discussion on how not just management but “high potential” employees themselves can better manage these awkward situations to achieve better results for libraries. Stephen has created a lengthy follow up post where he includes a thoughtful list of suggestions and tips that synthesizes a lot of the ideas that came up in the discussion. Worth a read.
It’s a pretty standard view of our profession that one of the things that makes a librarian a librarian is that they work in or with a library. That’s changing in weird and new ways, sort of. I just got back from SXSW and was really delighted to see a strong librarian presence in a number of new and useful ways. For people who are already part of the #SXSWLAM movement, you may already know this stuff, but for people curious how to make librarians into a presence, a terrific and “I want to hang out with those people and have what they’re having” presence, read on.
A lot of this stuff got started with a few high-traffic groups on facebook. I’ve been following along with ALA Think Tank for a while. They have managed to do the impossible: making the idea of joining ALA so that you could hang out with these folks seem like a really good idea. Nice work team. After SXSW last year, an event that had a really good turn out for a librarian meetup, a bunch of folks decided to really turn on the librarian energy and make a concerted effort to be Library Everywhere at SXSW. There was a group set up–#sxswLAM = Librar* + Archiv* + Museum*–a lot of scheming happening and some pretty amazing results.
There were a huge roster of presentations by and for librarians to choose from. I managed to go to a few and was happy to see both librarians and non-librarians in the audience. I enjoyed a solo presentation, The Great Library Swindle, by Carson Block and a really lively panel by some folks you know and love (Char Booth, Michael Porter, Nate Hill and Amy Buckland) called Making Stories: Libraries & Community Publishing (note: you can listen to this panel because the MP3 of the presentation is up already, how cool is that?).
There was also activity and liasoning with the library school at UT Austin. Paul Vinelli who has been blogging about the conference for ALA (posts: 1, 2, 3, 4) created a SXSWi primer for rowdy librarians which made the rounds beforehand and was a good guide for conference n00bs. ALA veteran John Chrastka, now doing his own thing at AssociaDirect did a little branding/fundraising and helped the crew get their own temporary tattoos and anyone who ran into one of the posse would get a baggie with some tattoos and other schwag. I wore my zebra stripe wristband the whole week.
There was also a meetup, a drinkup, and a lot of other activities where you could hang out with other librarians and just have a good time. A lot of this was coordinated through phone apps like GroupMe and the standard twittering and facebook. My two favorite parts of the whole thing (and as someone with a few different posses at SXSW, I didn’t participate too much but was cheering from the sidelines) were the upbeat energy and the inclusiveness. Anyone who wanted to be a part of it was welcome and the people involved were friendly, organized and fun. Big props to Andrea Davis, one of this years Library Journal Movers and Shakers, and Lisa Carlucci Thomas, who were two of the driving forces behind this year’s librarian surge.