personal branding is good design

During this month, the New Members Round Table listserv has had an online discussion about personal/professional branding. The discussion was generated around Personal Branding for Librarians by Karen G. Schneider for American Libraries. Schneider says that librarians have long been “notoriously preoccupied” with our image, to one another and to the public. The post mentions an ALA Midwinter program (panel review by Andromeda Yelton) on the topic moderated by Bohyun Kim, indicating it’s still an issue, particularly for new librarians.

The discussion was started by Laura Scott who says she is currently in Drexel University’s MLIS program and works in the publishing industry. Later on in the month she posted another article, this from Forbes by Glen Llopis: Personal Branding is a Leadership Requirement, Not a Self-Promotion Campaign. After reading this, I chimed in to the conversation:

Llopis says “what is the total experience of having a relationship with you like?” and I have no idea how to answer that…As a new librarian, I’m not yet certain who I am as a “total experience.” I’m also not sure how to find out.

Really helpful insight for others, right? I thought as an artist, I’d have no problem becoming a walking, talking “total experience.” A few days ago, Jo Alcock chimed in with a link to her post in 23 Things for Professional DevelopmentThing 3: Consider Your Personal Brand. Jo talks about online branding and creating a visual identity. This is when I began to understand.

I use the same photo across social media. Also, using an actual photo of me lets people consider my appearance before meeting me. Because they will consider.
I use the same photo across social media. Also, using an actual photo of me lets people consider my appearance before meeting me. Because they will consider.

Branding is good design. Dieter Rams knows good design and he narrowed it to ten principles of practice. Innovative, useful, understandable, honest, thorough. I’d like to be known for those things.

Robin Williams’ books are perfect for non-designers; she wrote the book, The Non-Designer’s Design Book! In it, she lists four essential principles of good design: contrast, repetition, alignment (“this creates a clean, sophisticated fresh look”), and proximity. Consider the similarities to what I want people to take away from the “total experience” of me: unique, consistent, approachable, available/prepared.

In the online conversation, Emily Weak of Hiring Librarians targeted what I was feeling when she wrote, “I can’t get past the idea that [branding] turns people into products.” Yet we know we need some kind of branding, as ugly as that term is. At a very basic level, the principles of good design apply to personal/professional branding.

Librarianship, as a service-oriented profession, may value from this. Good design is good because it’s reliable and helps us complete whatever task is at hand by doing so better and with little effort. As a newbie librarian, focusing on good design will make that “total experience” of ArtistLibrarian worth having over and over again. Now won’t that boost my reference statistics!

ink from paper to flesh

As an artist and librarian, I’m fascinated by tattoo culture. As a librarian and bibliophile, I am curious to see how books have transformed lives. To ink a quote or illustration on your flesh is true passion. It means the act of reading was not this is a great story but I am not the person I was before. Is this possible? To be permanently altered by language – enough to permanently alter your appearance?

Obviously yes. There are blogs dedicated to literary tattoos, the best being Contrariwise and The Word Made Flesh (which also has, appropriately, a book). On these sites people post images of their tattoos, the full quote and book title. Contrariwise even links to the book in Amazon.

Often in these posts, tattooed people will tell us why it’s so important to be marked by words. There are basic testaments such as someone “really connected with this book” or took “great inspiration” from it. But we also hear from Bethany, a single mom who finds companionship in To Kill a Mockingbird. Another girl with an abusive mother turned to Harry Potter; “I needed an escape,” she writes.

Librarians, writers, and teachers – if you need to remind yourself (or prove to others) the importance of what you do, just find someone whose shoulder reads So it goes… or is carrying a mockingjay on their arm and ask why.

Here are a few of my favorites:

The Little Prince, one of my favorite stories too!


Fahrenheit 451


The Scarlet Letter


Penguin Publishers must be proud 


Rime of Ancient Mariner (I am so jealous of this one!)
Rime of the Ancient Mariner (I am so jealous of this one!)


Because I love The Little Prince, here’s one more


Next up: famous (and not so) artwork as tattoos!


April 11 was National Bookmobile Day. Yes, really. I feel I’d take the opportunity to express my lifelong dream of having a bookmobile.

Or biblio-donkey.

Or biblio-camel, as I discovered via ALA’s Pinterest.

It is such a simple reward of providing reading material to those geographically removed from libraries or physically unable to visit. For all the necessary services libraries, particularly public libraries, provide, I think there is something wonderfully sweet and potentially life-altering reading a book, propped between your own hands while sitting in your own home.

Wading to the Bookmobile

To celebrate, here is a collection of links of bookmobile goodness:

The Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services holds annual conferences.

Musician turned film-maker Tom Corwin is working on a documentary, Behind the Wheel of the Bookmobile. His website is a generally terrific source for all this books-on-wheels.

John Amundsen’s article for American Libraries, Bookmobiles: A Proud History: A Promising Future, is a nice tribute. For more articles, Google News (for the keyword bookmobile) demonstrates that the bookmobiles are still going strong and a necessary part of library services and access.

Awesomeness from Amsterdam; this one travels to schools with over 7,000 books!
Awesomeness from Amsterdam; this one travels to schools with over 7,000 books!

Larry Nix, aka Library History Buff, created a Tribute to the Bookmobile.

Bookmobiles Parnassus on Wheels Flickr page for some images of the books on wheels, old and new.

If you haven’t read The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger, please borrow the copy from your local library!

theChive writes about artist Raul Lemesoff’s Weapon of Mass Instruction, probably my favorite bookmobile of all time.

Weapon of Mass Instructionvia theChive
Weapon of Mass Instruction via theChive

swtxpca: where pedagogy, science fiction, and cross-dressing come together

Last week I was at the Southwest Texas Popular and American Culture Associations‘ (SWTXPCA) annual conference in Albuquerque. I learned so much while there and flew home with my head full of ideas and intended research. To give an idea of the diversity of conversation and innovative scholarship happening around the world, here is my Must Read & Learn list from the conference.

the ADDIE model as a learning theory

watch Alton Brown how-to cooking videos

Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter

The Art Museum from Boullee to Bilbao by Andrew McClellan

explore The Brownie’s Book and its history (from January 1920; from the Library of Congress, this takes a while to load)

Creating a Personal Research Agenda by Brad Neuberg

Creating a Research Agenda by Justin Reedy and Madhavi Murty

the Library Bar and Grill in Albuquerque
the Library Bar and Grill in Albuquerque

Computer Lib/Dream Machines by Ted Nelson

Critically Queer by Judith Butler

Cultural Theory and Popular Culture by John Storey

Culture Wars by James Davison Hunter

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

the articles and books posted on EverdayLiteracies by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel as well as following their blog by the same title

The Future of Nostalgia by Svetlana Boym

Institute for the Future of the Book

the Kahn Academy model of teaching

Korean Shamanism 


Mapping Out a Research Agenda slideshow by Barbara G. Ryder

Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books by H. J. Jackson

Narrative as Virtual Reality by Marie-Laure Ryan

Our Lady of...UFOs? graffiti in Albuquerque
Our Lady of…UFOs? graffiti in Albuquerque

Neuromancer by William Gibson

The New Media Reader by editors Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Monfort

Of Other Spaces by Michel Foucault

Planned Obsolescence by Kathleen Fitzpatrick

Possiplex by Ted Nelson (after trudging though Computer Lib/Dream Machines and maybe I’ll finally understand Project Xanadu)


The Production of Space by Henri Lefebvre

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real and Imagined Places by Edward Soja

Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety by Marjorie Garber

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

collision spaces

On a faculty survey I distributed in October 2011, I asked about library space. Individual workspace was far more important, they reported to me, than group space. As they are mostly visual artists and performers, I wasn’t entirely surprised. But, I wondered, are they being their most creative sitting alone in their offices or studios?

Probably not. There is recent research that literally, and they mean literally, thinking “outside the box” leads people to be more creative. If you sit in a box, whether the study’s five foot cardboard one or a cubicle or an office, you are more likely to think simply and have little originality.

This week’s New Yorker article Groupthink concludes “the most creative spaces are those which hurl us together.” Jonah Lehrer mentions a few space solutions that encourage meeting of the minds without eliminating individual work time. Of course, like everything post-modern and brilliant these days, Steve Jobs is involved. His design for Pixar’s headquarters requires people to confront one another in the building’s central atrium. Pixar producer Darla Anderson admits, “I get more done having a cup of coffee and striking up a conversation or walking into the bathroom and running into unexpected people that I do sitting at my desk.”

view of Pixar office

Susan Cain’s New York Times article from January 13th affirms this. “Our offices should encourage casual, cafe-style interactions, but allow people to disappear into personalized, private spaces when they want to be alone. Our schools should teach children to work with others, but also to work on their own for sustained periods of time.”

Space where people must engage, but on their own terms, leads to more creativity and innovative production. In other words, hanging out at the water cooler can be more a more effective use of work time than committee meetings. Laura Braunstein calls these “collision spaces.” She concludes that the university campus’ collision space is the library.

On Thursday, The Ubiquitous Librarian reminded us that we have more work to do to earn that title – and it should be ours. Brian Mathews quotes a design student who described the library’s front door as “a neutral non-place that tries hard to be invisible.” Last year, Mathews visited Virginia Tech’s TechPad and took away a number of great space planning ideas for libraries that want to foster collision spaces – moveable environments to adjust to needs and open spaces yet maintaining defined spaces.

Braunstein dismissed the common worry that libraries have no future. They are the ultimate hangout for innovation and discovery. Libraries will do well to realize their strength as collision spaces and focus efforts to redefine their environments to foster accidental meetings.



returning the romantic touch of the book

The November/December issue of Crafts Magazine has a feature article that warmed my fiber art-librarian heart. Judging a Book by its Cover by Zoe Blacker introduced me to a new side of the publisher Penguin Books.

Emma by Jane Austen


With all of the controversy and anxiety in the current news over e-books, the future of libraries, and the death of print, Penguin Books is returning focus to the art and design of book covers. Penguin creative director Paul Buckley commissioned artist Jillian Tamaki to embroider covers for a few of their most popular titles. A graduate of Alberta College of Art and Design, Tamaki’s only prior experience with embroidery was her terrific Monster Quilt. But Buckley knew her work as an illustrator and comic book artist, selecting a very talented hard-worker to take on the Threads project.


Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

There are currently three book covers complete for the Threads collection: Emma by Jane Austen, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Buckley had the original embroideries scanned at a high resolution and printed on embossed paper. The end papers are the reverse side of the embroideries, a clever and beautiful twist that highlights the hand-made aspect of the original works.

Thankfully, Penguin Books isn’t done yet. The next three in the series are designed by Rachel Sumpter.