How To: Become a Library Future(ist) – part i

Dear Internet,

How do you become a library futurist?

Easy. You let others do the research for you.

This is, scout’s promise, not a dig at anyone.

Total pinky swear.

Let me explain.

“What is the future for libraries?” is one of the most popular question I’m asked in interviews. I have a couple of pat answers which are gleaned from the conversations I see on Twitter and mailing lists — but those are getting tired and repetitive.

My secondary answer comes in the form of, “I don’t know. Each library is different, has different needs, and plans for their future. It’s not always maker spaces and nerd nights. The future of libraries, therefore, is flexible. Libraries can be anything they want to be.”

Or something along those lines.

But that answer is also getting tired (and is also a cop out).

What really is the future of libraries?

First, it seems many ideas of what the future holds is related to technology. so let’s start with that first. TechCrunch, Wired, TheVerge, and ReadWrite are the main sites you’ll want to RSS or visit on a near daily basis. You’re going to see overlap between these four (and similiar) sites so don’t be afraid to narrow down to only one or two blogs to keep current.

Why?  I once posited reading tech sites had a better return value of keeping up with the profession over reading professional literature (and much cheaper):

While plowing through mailing list emails one day, a conversation erupted on the “value” of professional journals and magazines, meaning that what is the point of spending several hundreds of dollars for a personal subscription to LibraryJournal when a print subscription to Wired, which some consider more relevant for librarinating, is only $10?

Second, on top of tech sites and blogs, you’re going to want to look at places for special interests you have such as UX, Digital Humanities, or social mediaWhy? Academic articles take roughly 6 – 18 months from submission to publication. By that point, there are already several incarnations of whatever passing on by, which makes the article dated as hell. This is not to say you shouldn’t read those professional publications but you want to make sure you have complementary content in the mix.

In addition to the usual library land publications (too numerous to list and I’m sure you have your favorites), I’m fond of the list of journals found at Researching Librarian.

So you’ve got the sites / blogs / magazines, there is a lot of content — how do you determine what exactly is going to be the future for libraries?

Easy. Look for patterns of subjects across those sites and how they will work within the library ecosystem. Within a couple of weeks, I pulled enough content (which also coincided with chatter across Twitter, Facebook, and mailing lists) to come up with a solid list of nearly a dozen things we’re going to see in the coming future of libraries.

  • Security / Tor / Encryption  Who? The two people who come to mind in library land in this area is Alison Macrina (founder of The Library Freedom Project) and Ian Clark (radical librarian, politico, and curator of  surveillance.infoism.co.uk). What? TLFP’s goal is to “…make real the promise of intellectual freedom in libraries. By teaching librarians about surveillance threats, privacy rights and responsibilities, and digital tools to stop surveillance, we hope to create a privacy-centric paradigm shift in libraries and the local communities they serve.” This work is especially crucial  to keep libraries on point with ALA’s Code of Ethics, specifically article iii, “We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.” Clark is especially passionate about privacy (in all forms), surveillance, and inclusion in a post-Snowden world. Why does this matter? Macrina’s, and Clark’s, goals is to hold library associations accountable for their statements in regards to intellectual freedoms as well as educating libraries and patrons on those rights. As more people continue access information on public networks, the ability to protect that information is huge.
  • Library as co-working spaces Who? Me! What? If you’re unfamiliar with co-working spaces, it’s a shared space for those who may typically work from home or on the road and need a singular location to work. For a small membership fee a month, the co-working space provides food/drink, wifi, unlimited printing, boardrooms, parking, and a whole lot of other perks. (I found that using a co-working space tends to be significantly cheaper than using coffee shops or other areas for work.) Why does this matter? Co-working spaces have become de riguer for 21st century work force. If you were paying attention, many of these things are things already provided at libraries, so what’s the difference? For a nominal fee every month, users can get expanded services (unlimited printing, better wifi, locker location, snacks/drinks) with free services already available such as access to databases and the stacks. Most public libraries I’ve seen already have the infrastructure in place to handle this addition so the investment could be minimal AND it’ll (eventually) pay for itself with the nominal fees being charged AND if you get them in them in the library, you’re going to see an increase in circulation and programming PLUS it’ll be on trend with what communities will be looking for from their libraries.
  • Geospatial / Geolocation Technologies Who? Academic libraries. This seems to be either a popular requirement in positions or its own position. What is it? In the broadest sense, geospatial technology is mapping of the earth’s features using GPS and running analysis against the data. Why does this matter? In many of the positions that have the title of “geospatial librarian,” they tend to work with the earth sciences departments and analyze / provide references to maps and other components, which makes sense. But for (most) other libraries, the use of geospatial technology is to map out the library’s stacks and other accouterments to make it easier for patrons for find materials down to where on the shelf or in the physical space where the item is located. Nearly every interview I’ve had that had this “preferred” requirement, they wanted this project completed within a year. Ha. Ha. Ha. As libraries continue to grow their technology, expect them to require GIS related education (of course they will) as a way, they think, to remain relevant.

Here’s the thing: one of my original pat answers in interviews, “Each library is different, has different needs, and plans for their future.“, remains true. You’re going to find all type of libraries, regardless of size, trying to cram the future to fit them, even if it has nothing to do with their community or purpose, to remain relevant.

Come back later when I have more thoughts on library futurism such as copyright, social media, digital preservation, internet of things, and a whole lot more.

 

 

How To: Do something (anything) to enhance your skill set

Dear Internet,

In the last six months of job hunting, I’ve begun paying closer attention to the fluidity of the requirements of positions. While my background is  pretty diverse, I wanted to start thinking more of becoming a specialist in a few areas rather than just being an overall jill of all trades.

(Yes, yes, I know I ranted about unicorn / blended / full stack librarians and how it is bunk (still is bunk) but girl needs to pay her bills and the profession doesn’t move that fast.)

Part of the problem in having a huge variety of interests is they’re closely related fields so there is a lot of crossover but this is slowly not becoming a problem as I start breaking out the pieces I was most interested in and fitting them into a puzzle I can better understood.

After going over my interests, it became pretty clear what I wanted to do, as much as I loathe to say these two words, is to become a full stack developer. I want to know the back end of the server but I also wanted to learn how to develop and optimize the front end too. I’ll be writing more about how I’m doing on these things the upcoming weeks as I continue to sort and shuffle to make it work for me.

(And how you can do most of this training for free.)

For today though I want to to give you an idea how to get started if all or some of things interest that interest me and might interest you. Fill out the comment box below if you have more suggestions.

Back End
I’ve done some back end server stuff a million and a half years ago but that stuff is getting beyond rust. I keep it on my resume as most places want to know you can understand and move along the command line, write a few scripts, typically things many of us can do in our sleep. I wanted to reboot my back end education and this is how I’m starting:

  • Step one: Buy a book on linux. Yes, yes, I know there are a trillion and a half websites that will teach you a-z of linux, but I am a tactile as well as a visual learner. I need a book next to me when I’m working so I can take notes and what not. If websites work for you, awesome. I will probably use them for troubleshooting and quick reference.
    • I recommend The Linux Command Line for a couple of reasons, even if you’re familiar with using the command line already. This is a thorough walkthrough from setting your terminal shell to writing scripts. Caveat: Do not buy a flavor specific book (Redhat, Ubuntu, etc). While 95% of the commends work on all flavors, that 5% will get you if you buy a Ubuntu book and you’re working on Redhat.
  • Step two: Download VirtualBox, a virtual machine software. Some like VMWare or, if you’re on a Mac, Parallels but I found both to be clumsy and / or resource intensive. Things may have changed in the last few years since I looked at them, but they left such a terrible scar on my soul I refuse to use them.
  • Step three: Download your flavor of linux. You’ll need to download the ISO separately from VirtualBox but you’ll install your flavor within VirtualBox. To clarify: VirtualBox doesn’t come with any OSes and you’ll need to get them separately. Which I suppose I could have just said outright.
    • Choices are: Ubuntu, CentOS, RedHat and a metric ton more. You’ll want to make sure you’re downloading the desktop version for your experimentation. Now that you have a virtual machine, you can download variety of flavors to see which one works for you.
    • What’s the difference between the flavors: Think of cars. Every car on the planet has similar set up: four wheels, an engine, doors, steering wheel. What makes them different is design, size, and features. That’s exactly the same thing for the differing flavors of linux.
  • Step Four (optional): If you need something beyond books or websites, look for online classes. Udemy has classes fairly cheap but I found their classes to be hit or miss. Linux.com has suggestions. If your library has a subscription, Lynda.com also has pretty intensive courses.

Front End
I use “front end” to refer to not only the coding but also the organization of information, how it works, and its accessibility. These are a lot of different whole positions in themselves but I’m curious as hell about all of them. There is a lot going on here but just so we’re clear most librarian positions do not expect you to have expert knowledge (they may say so but really, what they ask for and what they want are two different things) in any or all of these things. Most will refer to front end as strictly web development / coding. If you decide to work outside of library land, YMMV.

  • SEO Search Engine Optimization is easy to learn but with libraries difficult to implement. The basic idea behind SEO is to better improve your site’s rankings in search engines so you can be found, but with libraries it becomes moot as most people use “name of city library” in their search bar and the first hit is usually that city’s library website. What SEO can do for libraries is optimize their sites for accessibility, which is important. It’s also a good skill to have if you’re looking to consult or move out of library land. Some things to know:
    • There is currently no industry standard certification on SEO. If you find websites that claim to get you industry certified, it’s bullshit.
    • Be weary of sites that want you to download software, even free, as most of them are ad ridden, unneeded, and only for Windows. A lot of the tools, if not all of the tools, you’ll need are already available online.
    • SEO Beginners has a good list of sites to read if you’re interested in keeping up with the hows and why of how search engines work, the research, the techs, and new techniques. (Google’s algorithm changes enough that what works for SEO in one version won’t necessarily work in the current version.) I read moz.com and searchengineland.com on the regular to keep abreast of changes and news.
    • Books are hit or miss. Mainly miss and mostly bunk. As of July 2015, a lot of SEO books just cull information from the internet, slap it together as an eBook, and call it a day. Don’t be fooled by most of the books that have high rankings — you’ll notice a lot of them are not verified purchases (which if your book is only available on Amazon and in eBook form — how in the hell are these people giving A++ stars?). I do recommend Adam Clarke’s SEO 2016 eBook. While I originally gave it three stars, his amiable response and updates were significant enough to move that up to a 4.
    • You can take classes at Udemy and there are a ton of free ones. The ones by moz.com are going to be legit since they are the SEO experts but look for highly rated popular ones to step your toes in.
  • Social Media This is more of my expert area as I’ve been writing, using, and lecturing on social media for years. What I’m more interested in is not what is popular and what the youths use in so much as what social is (ir)relevant to libraries, how to manage and produce content, and getting started. My stance has been, and will be, not all social media is for all libraries. I’ve fallen off the wagon for this but bookmark the above page if you want to get updates on the regular, which I promise to do.
  • User Experience / User Interface / Information Architecture These are fields I’m really interested in and the ones I really need more instruction on. I have given introductory talks on very, incredibly, simple introductions to UX, but a lot of what I’ve gleaned over the years has been listening / learning from experts. Smashing is a very good resource. Listen to the LibUX podcast which is run by twitter friends Michael/Amanda for talks, resources, and more. The holy grails on UX/UI are The Design of Everyday Things and Don’t Make Me Think. Amazon has a wide variety of books on UX, UI, and IA. I have the first edition of Information Architecture (looks like I’ll have to update), which is also a holy grail. IA is typically tied in with UX/UI in a variety of fashions (mainly usability).
  • Coding I will freely admit I am eating crow on this topic. I postulated for years not every librarian needs to learn how to code to work in tech (and why I get my knickers in a knot when a lot of the librarian tech stuff is mostly coding), and while I still maintain this to be mostly true, I’ve conceded I need to learn how to code. Something. Right now I’m mainly interested in HTML, CSS, Javascript, and Ruby on Rails.
    • First, I’m going to sing the praises of teamtreehouse.com. My local library has a subscription to the service (and they also have a subscription to Lynda.com), so for me it’s free. Their classes are fantastic, well organized, in-depth, and some places (Like CodeLouisville) consider them to be a standard for learning. Plus the instructors are professionals in their field, not some Tom, Dick, and Harry who can put up a class on Udemy. Treehouse also has a large variety of coding  tracks (WordPress development, Ruby on Rails, etc) that are comprised of variety of classes within those tracks. Plan on spending between 25-40 hours per track. Don’t be an idiot like me and do 40 hours over 3.5 days for reasons. They are going to include tracks on soft end development like SEO and currently have a track on starting your own consulting firm and digital literacies. And if my library dumps Treehouse, I am going to cough up the $25/mo to get their service as I love them that much.
    • Second, in addition to Treehouse there services like Udemy, UdacityLynda.com, and others have loads of free (and cheap) classes to take on a particular language. Lots of languages (I’d hazard most if not all) have classes/tutorials set up already on their or related sites.
    • Third, if you’re going to code, hie thee over to cloud9, a cloud based development workspace. You get one work area for free in which you can run one whatever at a time. e.g. If you install and muck about WordPress, you won’t be able to install the environment for Python. You’ll have to scrap your WordPress workspace to do Python, but hey!, it’s free. (They also have paid tiers which allow you to upgrade to more workspaces and so on.)

Additional jazz

If you’re going to program/web dev/whatever, you’re going to want to find a local geek/nerd/hacker space. L-ville has CodeLouisville (where I’m going to be taking in-person classes on front end web dev starting in the spring) and as well as a few other hacker spaces. Almost every city I’ve been to has some kind of *space where you can muck about, learn new things, and find your peoples. If you search MeetUp, you should find specific groups, e.g. Louisville Linux, where you can meet people, learn something, participate events, and so on. Last but not least, find mailing lists of what you’re interested in to keep you fresh on what’s happening in that thing. Alternately, you can get updates from their websites via RSS or mailing lists as well.

tl;dr

I’ve covered a lot of ground today but this should give you a good idea of where to pick up training, information, and etc if you’re interested in any of my topics or you can use these techniques for your own interests.

As mentioned, I’ll be updating over the upcoming weeks on projects and things to keep me on track and so nosey people can follow along.

Au revoir!

The Great Job Hunt of 2016

Dear Internet,

During the great job hunt, a million and a half years ago or 2010, I started a post with,

In the list of ridiculous things that I consider to be dehumanizing, job hunting is one of them. And by ridiculous I mean that I, myself, find this process ridiculous because the level of bullshit and hoop jumping and dehumanizing because I’m beyond irritated that we, the applicants, get judged by missed punctuation and our activities online. But we, in turn, cannot judge our potential employers (well, at least publicly) for the exact same things for the fear of their potential wraith.

Six years on that has definitely not changed.

If you’ve been following this blog in the last week, I ranted on job titles, job descriptions and “other duties as assigned,” and the fallacy of unicorn / blended positions. You’ll see much of my rant mimics what I wrote all those years ago under the auspice category title, “So, You Want To Be A Librarian.”

Almost nothing has changed. Scouts honor.

In 2010, I ranted about the man keeping me down, unable to find a position after library school (114 applications!), and the ridiculousness of applying for these jobs (the awful HR software — holy cats!).

Then I got a job. That contract ended. I started writing a book, the book stalled, and well, here I am.

It’s 2016 and the job application process is almost eerily the same. I’ve applied for 120+ library positions, the HR software still remains cagey as hell, I have had scores of interviews but no job offers. I’ve dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s, I’ve done just about anything anyone has asked me to and yet…

Yet…

Nothing.

Those offering their (oft not asked for) opinion tout out the same reasoning why I’m not getting positions now as I was then such as: my language on social media, what I’m willing to discuss on social media / my blog, what I am / am not doing to make me more desirable. I don’t have enough experience/skills, I have too much experience/skills.

I believed enough in #teamharpy and I did not back down.

In 2010 I understood the high probability I was not getting positions, despite being the golden child of my graduating class, was likely a combination of everything and not just a single thing. Tie in coming out of a recession, the job requirements were in the process of shifting, and everything was possible. Nothing was improbable.

In 2016, much of this has has not changed. It seems to still be a sellers, not a buyers, market. I still have friends, as qualified as myself, who can’t find positions. Many have moved on to non-library positions in corporate or non-profit ventures.

The truths as I am being googled relentlessly and the case still figures prominently in the search results no matter how you spin it. As I wrote more eloquently the other day, “… prospective employees love the resume, letters of interest, my portfolio, and everything I stand for, but not me due to the case.

Is it the case that’s holding me back? I think so: I’ve had job offers rescinded more than once after the the school googled me and got the details. Do I think it’s also has to do with what I’ve been writing, tweeting, Facebooking, etc online? I genuinely have no idea but I’ll hazard some places might see that as a liability.

(One person told me these places have a “right” to google their possible future employees. Sure. Are they are also googling their current employees? Because I can tell you with certainty I have and not everyone is coming up roses.)

So where does that leave me? Applying for jobs, writing the rocking letters of interest, work on adding more skills to add to my growing cadre of existing skills.

I just won’t give up. I love what I do and that is something you can’t take away from me.

As that stands I have to work two times, no a million times, harder to prove my worth. Is this blackballing, because let’s be honest that is what it is, ever going to end? Yes. When? No idea.

But it will at some point.

It has to.

Librarian How To: Preparing for Department Accreditation

Dear Internet,

We’re gonna shift a bit from existential crises and go into work details. One topic I have yet to see covered in my trolling of academic librarian Internet is putting together support for academic departments when they are in accreditation years. Since I completed such a thing and recently took a survey that was pushed out to an academic mailing list on this very topic, this proved to be an opportune time to get something written up.

In my current position, I am a liaison to many departments on campus, which align with my education background and interests. One of those departments is the Visual Arts department along with certain sections of Fashion and Interiors (Interiors) and Computer Information Systems (web design) are accredited by National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). What does accreditation mean? NASAD explains:

…is a process by which an institution or disciplinary unit within an institution periodically evaluates its work and seeks an independent judgment by peers that it achieves substantially its own educational objectives and meets the established standards of the body from which it seeks accreditation.

To clarify: in addition to making sure that the department and programs associated with that department are academically on par for what they are being promoted as, it also makes it whole lot easier for students transferring from one accredited school to another.

What the hell does this have to do with the library? As the often main support unit for these departments, the main function of the library is to illustrate and provide documentation, usually in written form, of that support.

For MPOW’s 2014 accreditation process, my documented support came in at a 15 pages. Your mileage may vary.

Now  I will tell you that as someone whose academic life has mainly been in the humanities, I am the effing champ at writing tight copy in cases like this, so I knocked the writing out fairly quickly. However, I was foolish enough to not prepare this long before I should have and blindly/naively believed previous years documentation was going to be readily available. Let us be surprise that it wasn’t, so in the end it was the gathering of data that dragged on rather than the writing itself. This guide is geared to those who will find themselves in similar situations and need help.

Before You Begin
This guide is being written having been the basis for the NASAD accreditation. If you’re not writing for NASAD, you will need to check with your department to find out the accrediting body and what they require for support. NASAD had very specific formats and formulas for their documentation, so the onus is on you to make sure you get the right guide and format for your documentation.

Budgeting Time
I am going to assume you have already spoken with your department head that is under accreditation to find out due dates. You may also need to have regular meetings to go over details. In my example, I received a packet from the department support in mid-November 2013. I met with the department chair within a week and was told the final due date for submission from me was January 31, 2014. I gave myself a soft deadline of January 15. I turned in the documentation on January 29, 2014 and had zero revisions.

You should budget roughly 40 hours between research, meeting, and writing the support. It will vary from department to department and school to school, depending on how hands on/off the department is and what has already been done. Some departments schedule a year for data collection and writing, mine was only a few months.

Another note: In addition to the library’s support, the Visual Arts department also has a private library available only for VARTS students and faculty. This may vary from institution to institution. Thus, many of the collection and monies spent was separated by what the college library (me) spent and cataloged in addition to what the VARTS department bought and cataloged.

Data You Are Collecting
For the NASAD, I was not only collecting data on entire Visual Arts department, but also sections of Computer Information Systems and Fashion and Interiors. Now our set-up does not allow for splitting out titles from Fashion and Interiors that are only for Interiors, so I had to lump those together unless I wanted to count by hand, which was not going to happen. Now going forward I could manually track specifically what I was buying for that side of the department, but when running stats, it would not be possible.

  • Total volumes This refers to print and ebook, which I was able to separate out by department and then gave the combined totals
    • This also includes a subject inventory, broken down by call number (print) and LC subject (eBook) and the number of holdings for each section
  • Total periodicals This refers to print, electronic, and microfiche, again separated out by department and then a combined total
    • I broke this down by access type (print, online, microfiche, or some combination) and access years
  • Audio/Visual This was not required by NASAD but I provided it anyway, with just the combined total
    • Similar to the volumes set up, broken down by call number (physical copy) or LC subject (streaming) and the number of holdings for each section
  • Streaming Audio/Video Again, not required by NASAD but I provided it anyway with combined total
  • Slides Required by NASAD, but the library does not have them, the VARTS library does
  • Databases Listing of subject specific and general databases, with direct links to our holdings
  • Other libraries available This was an in-depth list of all local libraries, special history, archives, museums, and consortia our students and faculty could freely visit. So this list included titles, URLs, and a brief description of each. In my list I included local library systems, colleges, public museums and the like. Since this list more than likely won’t change much, this is easy to pull and update.
  • Budgets You’ll need to pull reports on money spent for each department (in my case there are three) individually for designated years and the projected budget for the current year. You will also need to note current fiscal year budget for the library as a whole and money allocated to staff, maintenance, and other areas as dictated by the accreditation agency.
  • Volumes per year In addition to how much you spend per year, you’ll need total number of volumes bought per year per each department you’re supporting for the accreditation.
  • Number of staff assigned/liaisoned to the department and their credentials In this section, you’ll add your name, titles, and your education/expertise as well as any other persons from the library who act as support to collecting, budgeting, etc.
  • Policies and procedures for collections, preservation, and replacement of materials Pretty self-explanatory. Here you will give a brief overview of your library’s collection policies, preservation of the collection, and how materials are replaced plus any other related materials

NASAD wanted a listing of ALL volumes owned by the library to support documentation. I wrote something along the lines of, “with nearly 13,000 volumes, it would be unrealistic to produce a listing due to the sheer mass of material.” I did, however, break down the volumes section by call number and the number of holdings for it for print titles and combined the LC subjects associated with each major section (Visual Arts, Interiors, Web Design).

Now that’s the general jist.

And yet there is more! Of course there is! NASAD also wanted:

  • Governance/overall requirements/facilities Example would be: size of the facility, how many computers are available for students to use in the entire library, is there WIFI available, printer/copiers, what software is available on the machines, any special software (Adobe Creative Works, CAD, etc) available specifically for VARTS students, what is available on each floor in terms of collection, and the breadth of the library’s collection as a whole. So essentially all of the library’s services and what/when/how/why.
  • Administration of the collection What parts of the collection are available at the library proper versus what is being kept at the VARTS library
  • Needs of student/faculty How can students/faculty get materials on/off campus, type of access that is available, how can they make suggestions for new materials, and so forth
  • Services How long the library is open each week in total hours, how the library’s resources are divided between print and electronic (ex: X books are in print, X books are online, we have X number of databases) and so forth. How the library operates its communication channels of new materials, and here I mentioned the library’s use of social media and listed our social media accounts with links.
  • Value of the collection By this it is meant, how can the campus community get access to and find materials? I wrote about keyword searching, using LC subject headings, using Dewey Decimal System, and Subject Guides. I broke down how each worked and for the Subject Guides, included all of the tabs we streamline across the guides themselves and links to each department’s own Subject Guide.

Problems
Here is a list of things I came across that put a hitch in my giddy up:

  • Support from the last accreditation in 2003 and the follow-up in 2007 was sparse. I was given a binder of printed off emails which was essentially chatter going back and forth between people in the various departments but not a lot of substance. I found one document from 2007 for follow-up support but there was no full report written from 2003 available electronically or only pieces of it in print. I had to start from scratch. Solution: I saved everything from my go round in clearly labeled text documents in a centralized location on the library’s intranet and backed up copies to a cloud service. This also includes the finalized document I turned in to NASAD.
  • We changed how we track funding for various departments at least twice between 2003 and 2013. We now use fund codes for each department to track spending but before, not so much. Solution: I, with the help of our cataloger, created complex search routines in the ILS to find items purchased between specific dates for various call numbers and/or LC subject headings to get what I needed. This also solved the problem with getting the totals of what was spent from each department. Going forward, I will be running yearly searches to have materials easily on hand.
  • Electronic books do not include call numbers but only LC Subject Headings, which slowed down searching for items. Solution: Again, using search routines in the ILS, created often dozen plus long lines of search queries to get list of items. Saved list of items can be re-used in the future to update on the fly.
  • The departments were without a liaison for a few years, collection development and maintenance was erratic. Solution: Noted this in the support, but since I came on in 2011, I’ve been furiously buying to support all of my departments, replacing what is damaged, and keeping in touch with my faculty to make sure their needs are met.
  • Support documents available from the past reviews was filled with flowery language and supercilious commentary. Solution: Cut that shit out. Literally. This is not a creative writing contest, you do not need to describe your collecting process done with “great and overly joyed enthusiasm.” Be direct and to the point.

With all of that being said and done, here a process I would recommend you should be doing to keep this up to date so you’re not scrambling when the time comes to write-up the support. It should be noted again that you should have the found and formatted the accrediting body’s requirements into a working document.

  • Most of the above can easily be collected at any time because the values are not going to change. You are more than likely not going to lose computers or you are not going to suddenly lose a whole floor. So even if it is not your accreditation year, you can start gathering the easy stuff first and writing it up so it will be on hand when you’re ready to rock.
  • Harass your faculty as often as you feel comfortable with on requests for new materials as your buying materials. Example: one of my photography professors recently sent me a list of over a 100 photography books he wanted. I was able to order over 50% of those (the rest were out of print or unavailable or yet to be published). Stress they can make suggestions for ANYTHING: books, ebooks, film, journals, databases, etc. Many of my faculty are often surprised at what how in-depth we’ll get for their needs
  • Keep your faculty abreast of what is coming in by sending them monthly reports of materials that have arrived so they know and can tell their students. Use social media/Subject Guides to advertise the new materials
  • Run yearly reports of each department of funds spent and items received so you have them easily available for the yearly breakdown
  • Find ways to streamline your searching in the ILS. Would appending call numbers to electronic materials helped? Hell yes. Creating search with dozens of lines to match the LC subject headings took forever and could have been made a lot easier.
  • Weed often. Weed with care, but weed often. I have titles about the Internet going back to 1994 but I could not pull from the print stacks because I did not know if my totals were going to be high enough. NASAD required for a BA level school to have 10,000 volumes combined, and we’re an AA level school with 13,000 volumes combined so I would have been beyond okay. But with lack of liaison for several years before I came along and how the job has changed, there has been no real time to weed. Now I make time so next time this comes around, the collection is fresh and currency is high.
  • Take copious notes on everything; make those notes available at a shared and central location. We have a shared accreditation folder since several librarians are liaisons to accrediting departments and the NASAD folder was sparse. I created a child folder specifically for FY 2014 and dropped everything from NASAD’s notes on prep to pulled lists to the finalized document.

One last thing. NASAD had two sections required to be filled out that were both damn near repetitive in the questions. The idea, apparently, is the first section would be a brief intro while the second separate section would be the in-depth, so you may end up repeating yourself. NASAD does prefer you reference other sections if need be, so keep that in mind.

And seriously, one last thing. Keep in touch with your department head spearheading this for any questions you may have while you’re writing. Get clarification to your answers before committing and make sure to also follow-up with them after the report is submitted.

Now go forth and get accredited!

The Fine Art of Creating An Online Professional Presence

excellentthing
I am big in Canada!

Dear Internet,

Before I begin, I need to note some changes that have been going on. First big change is that I migrated all the blog posts over from my professional site to this site. I was not updating the blog portion of my professional presence in a meaningful time frame AND I talk a lot about professional stuff over here so combining the two became a natural progression. I have put the posts relating to the professional stuff on its own page, which is automatically updated as new content is published. I also have a widget in the right navigation bar for easy access.

The second change is that I reorganized the professional site to be more transparent on what my goals and career plans are, and took away the features that were geared for current MPOW by putting them on its own portfolio page.

Lastly, while I was working on this, I found out from my favorite John that at the recent Ontario Library Association, I was a THING OF EXCELLENCE (see photo at beginning of this piece) on online portfolios. I found the accompanying wrap-up of the presentation, which has a lot of good info.

That’s it for the news.

This all ties into when I started writing this post on developing a profesh librarian site last year, geared to illustrate my own experiences and giving examples of others. MPOW originally required faculty, of which includes librarians, to have a Faculty Performance Evaluation portfolio (formerly known as the FGIP) in place and on paper. My work is nearly all in the digital world, so thus my portfolio was digital. In the fall of 2013, MPOW moved over to an in-house digital product to manage and did away with paper and also making my site obsolete.

I came to the conclusion this was a good time to make my profesh site more robust and provide all the things! I changed the layout and theme a few times until I got something close to what I liked and started filling in more content, primarily stuff from before I started working at the college and more details about professional projects I was currently working on.

Yet, I felt like no matter how much I tweaked, I was still not satisfied with how the site was turning out. I came up with the brilliant idea that I needed to see what other people were doing, so I headed to Google and searched:

librarian -“ask a librarian” -“annoyed librarian”1

Time frame searched: Within the last twelve months

Criteria: Professional-esque site, with something that resembled a resume/CV, with a list of projects/presentations/papers or something resembling professional development. It was fine if they had a blog, were linking to other sites they frequented, or provided content that was more relevant to personal than professional.

I rejected sites linking to LinkedIn for resume/CV information since that required a LinkedIn account, which I don’t have and will not get. I rejected sites about librarianship that were portal or aggregation sites. I rejected book review sites.  I rejected the use of the word “librarian” in the title or URL by people who were not librarians.

I rejected a lot of content.

I combed through 56 pages of Google results.

I found very little. Maybe two sites, possibly three that fit my criteria.

I sulked about this for awhile because how was this even possible? There were a gazillion librarians, no one has a professional site? I knew creating digital portfolios was the rage at most library and iSchools, so why were these not coming up? Why weren’t people I knew who had professional sites coming up? My search was pretty broad and I did not discriminate against any type of librarianship.

Someone suggested I should look at the websites of people I know, which was a fine idea! I went through all 500+ people I follow on Twitter and added their names to my now growing list. Several people made recommendations. Of the roughly 50 people listed below, less than a handful are ones I do not know.

Margaret Heller
Becky Yoose
Jodie Schneider
Bohyun Kim
Christiane Evaskis
Chealsye Bowley
Mita Williams
Rob Dumas
Amanda Goodman
Emma Cragg
Annie Pho
Phil Bradley
Frank Skornia
Loida Garcia-Febo
Dennis Nangle
Heidi Steiner Burkhardt
Val Forrestal
Andrew Shuping
Tiffani Travis
Sara Mooney
Ned Potter
Cynthia Ng
John Pappas
Ann Clark
Andromeda Yelton
Dorothea Salo
Matthew Reidsma
Sarah Houghton
Nicholas Schiller
Coral Sheldon-Hess
Mackenzie K. Brooks
Leah White
John Jackson
Jenny Levine
Erin Dorney
Stan Bogdanov
Kate Kosturski
Marie Elia
Lynda Kellam
Emily Clasper
Jessamyn West
Andy Burkhardt
Cathy Cranston
Anne-Marie Deitering
Ian Clark
Jacob Berg
Emily Drabinski
Lauren Bradley
Michelle Kraft
nina de jesus
Ruby Lavallee
K.G. Schneider
Ruth Collings
Ginger Williams

Here is what the sites above have in common:

  • Clearly identifies who the person is
  • Provides a resume/CV or some kind of professional biography about the person
  • Presents publications / papers / talks of works either completed and/or in progress
  • Contact information is clearly made available in some form (email or social network)

It is now a nearly a year later and I repeated the same Google search. I combed through nearly 14 pages of links and found that only FOUR of the names listed in the table above showed up, as opposed to two in 2013. I found another 11 people who matched my criteria but were not in the above for a grand total of 15 people out of hundreds of hits as opposed to three in 2013.

In my search, I learned:

  • A large number of librarians really love using about.me and tumblr.com for their portals
  • Librarians of all flavors really love doing book review blogs
  • Almost all were “something” librarian (sneezy librarian, scratchy librarian, and so forth)
  • Librarians really love using “uncategorized” as their default category taxonomy on their blogs (WHY??)
  • Despite doing a global search, I had a hard time finding English language non-American librarian sites
  • With the exception of the four in my list, none of the librarians listed above came up in my search despite almost all of them having “librarian” somewhere in the title of their site, URL, or on their landing page
  • Despite using the word “librarian” on my landing page and using good SEO, I did not come up in the searches performed in 2013 and 2014
  • Search performed in April 2013 came up with 56 pages of results. Same search and Google settings in February 2014 came up with 14 pages of results.

This outcome really surprised me. I went searching for other sites to get ideas for design and content, and now I’m thinking about the fallacy of Google and search in general.  Primarily with Google, their new algorithm now leads news and products pushed to the top over sites with content.

But what this discrepancy says to me more is how we’re valued as a whole. We can’t project who we are, the diversity in jobs AND the people in the profession, if the term “librarian” is continually used to have such fluid meaning. My favorite John responded,

it’s both a desire for that authenticity and an implicit belief that the work librarians do is not very hard.

And he’s right. This is what frustrates me that we tell people who are going into the field to go search for librarians online but if a librarian themselves can’t find those like her, how on earth are we to expect the young bloods coming up in the field to connect and outreach to those they want to be mentored by? How are we able to connect and collaborate if we cannot find each other?

We keep going on about marketing to outside our profession, but exactly how are we doing that? If you’re not utilizing social networking and are relying your website as your main presence, then how are people finding you if even the most basic searches reveal nothing? Are we really putting together sites that make it easier for others to find us or are still projecting the cool kids club attitude by unintentionally putting barriers around ourselves?

P.S. I did find and fall in love with the Oh, So You’re A Librarian tumblr while doing this search as their gif curation is exquisite.


1. This search means, “Google. Please find me all sites that have the word “librarian” in them but does NOT contain “ask a librarian” (a common phrase used on library websites to direct users to ways they can ask a librarian) or “annoyed librarian” (the anonymous writer for a column in Library Journal).