Again with the upheaval. Here's what's been going on since last I posted:
--I've spent almost a full semester at the SC4 library, and I'm about to start another. I'm excited to see what happens when we start using clickers and the new handout I (mostly) designed for the English 101 classes!
--At SC4 we're about to find out who our permanent director will be going forward, so that has potential to be a new thing to adapt to as well.
--I've picked up a few shifts at Sterling Heights and I'm starting to feel comfortable as a substitute librarian as well.
--On a personal note, I had a wonderful if weird Christmas this year. It was great to get to spend time with my family, even if we were all sort of running around like crazy people. We all had a different schedule this year, so it was sort of a staggered Christmas.
--I moved to where my new job is in Port Huron, MI. This has proven to be a really good move for my sanity (no more hour-and-some commute each way daily!), and it has given me more time to devote to thinking about my future, writing, reading, and learning. However. I didn't get internet in my apartment until a few weeks ago, and I don't really have enough time at work to publish, so I haven't been doing so. I'm excited to be back in the saddle again!
So, some library things I've been thinking about. I was reading in Library Journal's Corner Office column about a month and a half ago (I know, internet ancient history) an interview with Deborah Jacobs from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I would like to begin by saying how much I admire this woman and think I'd love to have lunch with her. Then I would like to quote her as she succinctly lays out the (evidently universal) problems facing libraries and librarians:
"Number one, we're an aging profession. Number two, our library schools aren't necessarily teaching us the skills we need to be modern librarians. Number three, most of us weren't trained to do the jobs we're doing now. Number four, the young people who are going to library schools are often getting hired by industry, where they can be paid more. Number five, librarians don't know how to advocate. Number six, we've got a whole new way of providing service that we don't have the funding for. Number seven, our funding is not sufficient. Number eight, people don't know why we're relevant in the days of the internet."
First of all, wow. I remember being stunned the first time I read that that there was someone out there who was able to clearly state the problems we're having in the profession. As someone who's a new librarian, I feel that I often struggle to articulate these things in a comprehensive way. I can talk around them, but I can't clearly articulate them in conversation, not to mention in an interview!
Second, I feel that on the blogosphere and in the library community, we've discussed these problems individually, sometimes even together, and most of the important stuff about them has been said. So I won't rehash others' arguments.
I have a slight beef with one of her premises, though. I understand that librarians seem to have difficulty advocating for themselves and their libraries. I accept the premise because I think it's pretty clear that if we were making a better case for our value we wouldn't get people saying to our faces, "but are there really going to be any jobs for librarians? I mean, I just Google stuff..."
But here's where I have an issue. I believe there are librarians out there--particularly young librarians recently out of college, or librarians who are parents--who can advocate effectively for libraries. Here's why: many of us had to advocate in college (or, if you're parents, you advocate for your children's stuff). Other recently minted librarians and librarian parents out there, anyone want to weigh in? How many of you were involved in at least one club/fraternity/sorority/music ensemble/performance group/student publication in college? How many of you have sold Girl Scout cookies/band candy/calendars/wrapping paper and so on to colleagues, relatives and friends?
Focusing now on college, because that's what I know best, how many of you had to sell that activity to your classmates? Who else chalked the quad at 2 am to try and get people to come to your event? Sent out Facebook invites? Wore t-shirts for the week before a show? Sat at a ticket table and harrassed/cajoled/shout-outed your friends into attending a lecture sponsored by your group? Talked up how great that fundraising party or spaghetti dinner was going to be to all your friends and your friends' friends? How many of you reminded all your classes to come to the open house you were throwing, because all the cool kids are going to be there?
Ok. If you have ever done any of those things, or if you've ever been a parent trying to fundraise for your child's school, team, or event, you can advocate. Period. And I bet a lot more of us have done this than we realized. And here's the thing. Chalk art and ticket tables are obviously less effective outside of an area-controlled environment. But a lot of these methods for communicating a message still apply. Wear the same t-shirt every day for a week, and make sure people at the grocery store see you wearing it. Talk to people about how cool your event is going to be.
Seriously--have no shame. When you're in line at McDonald's, ask people if they've heard about the event your library is doing, tell them you're a librarian there, and that you'd love to see them. Talk to your friends especially. They're your friends--they're the most likely to forgive you for any excesses of enthusiasm. Tell the guy who changes your oil that all the cool kids are going to be at the library for the new nonfiction bookclub they're starting. Try to find a way to get advertising into the local shops and businesses, just like the kids doing the high school plays. They do that because it works.
I'm not sure if it's because we're being shy, or we think our advocacy somehow has to be instantly earth-shattering in it's awesomeness and we think we'll fall short, or if we think these methods won't work anymore, or what. But they do. I've seen it happen. You have to create a hype if you want to sell out a show, and I know it can be done. We've got to be brave enough to risk what may come if we want to sell the library to the public, but I think we can do it.
As usual, I am open to disagreements, qualifications, and so on. What do you out there think?