new librarian’s guide to publishing

I attended the ALA NMRT webinar New Librarian’s Guide to Publishing. Since I’m hoping to publish my first peer-reviewed article in the spring of next year, I am open to all advice and shared experiences on the subject! Three librarians talked about their publishing experiences and tips:

Beth Evans from Brooklyn College gave us the four P’s of publishing:

Persistence. Beth submitted her first article to three publications before getting it accepted. Yet, that article led to a review and an interview in The Chronicle!

Partnership. She recommends working with colleagues to publish. In her case, she worked with interns. Don’t be shy or limit your connection opportunities!

Promotion. Like it or not you will have to assert and promote yourself. For example, she contacted The Chronicle when she had a great project happening in her library.

Preference. Write what you prefer to write about, even if it isn’t your speciality. We are all so much more than librarians – perhaps gender, ethnicity, subject interests, or happenstance will lead you to write outside the traditional scholarship.

Maura A Smale is at the New York City College of Technology and talked about publishing in open access venues. She pointed out that academic research libraries have increased expenditure on serials by over 400% since the mid-1980s! Some advantages of open access include ease of linking and sharing (download stats on OA articles are greater) and there are more opportunities for involvement in peer reviewing and editorial board participation.

Maura mentioned the DOAJ and SHERPA/RoMEO, which lets you search by publisher or journal to find summaries of copyright and self-archiving policies. She also talked about the SPARC Author Addendum which gives authors additional rights to their articles. You can add it to your non-OA contract – never hurts to try!

Brian Mathews of Virginia Tech rounded out the presenters and discussed writing as a personal pursuit that is less about traditional scholarship (peer review) and more about starting a conversation. He has chosen not to focus on academic works and instead writes white papers and blog posts.

As a rather accomplished librarian and writer, it was interesting to hear this approach. The more you write, he said (and it doesn’t matter the venue), the more you are invited to write. Also, blogging not only builds an audience but builds your confidence. Blogging can also be important as a writing venue for newer librarians. He emphasized that we write for where we are in our careers with a hint toward where we want to be.

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!

information literacy is larger than a library

Information literacy is outlined in clear standards by the Association of College and Research Libraries and these standards are reinforced by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education’s accreditation proposals. These are idealistic measures that do not compromise on their definition of success. However, the realities of academic libraries and their ability to meet these measures must be reflected in the highest level of conversation on this hot topic. Information literacy is not only a library matter; its issues and expectations must be addressed by academic administration as a campus-wide initiative.

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education readily admits that “general education programs cannot offer a sufficient opportunity for students to achieve fully the higher-order information literacy skills (2).” Yet, rather than review curriculum and academic programming, the Commission and others favor a periphery dialogue between faculty and librarians to resolve this problem. Many academic librarians are already asked to provide bibliographic instruction in less than an hour of class time with no follow-through. Now these librarians are burdened with the additional standards of teaching information evaluation and its social implications – without additional class time, financial compensation, or apt education.

Peckham Library, London by Ellen Forsyth on Flickr
Peckham Library, London by Ellen Forsyth on Flickr

This concern is addressed by Stanley Wilder (2005) who believes “librarians should use their expertise to deepen students’ understanding of the disciplines they study (14).” Herein lies the larger problem. Academic librarians today are often hired without extensive subject knowledge or teaching competence – only heightened research skills. This shift occurred in the late nineteenth century. Initially, scholars worked in academic libraries, supporting patrons with their subject expertise and professorship practice. Then, in 1877, Melvil Dewey established the first library school and, as Frances Hopkins noted, “there is no doubt that Dewey’s good intentions depressed the profession as a whole (Owusu-Ansah, 2004, 7).” Today we are again being asked to be scholars. I view this as a return to a more rigorous academic national curriculum.

Information literacy cannot merely be an extension of bibliographic instruction. In current library instruction, the librarian begins each search process at a superficial and elemental stage of knowledge on the subject, so she stresses trivial methods. By starting each reference search at the know-nothing level, it suggests to the student that research is a tedious and linear development – the exact opposite of what we have learned about common information-seeking behavior. Information literacy places too much emphasis on this erroneous set of actions. Additionally, this process poorly “duplicates what effective teachers,” according to Joseph McDonald, “…already accomplish with their students (2004, 1).” Librarians should be in a position to support these teachers, not replace the focused education and curriculum with agendas hastily created to achieve vague academic standards. Clearly librarians should work with faculty on teaching learners to learn, but offering credit courses outside of subject emphasis places information literacy alongside subject learning rather than directly within it.

It is surprising that something as basic as literacy would be pulled aside for isolated consideration as a requirement for higher education. The ALA’s definition of information literacy reads like the foundation of any university mission statement. University libraries need to support this, not reframe it. While ALA may encourage librarians to work with their institutions in meeting standards, the library should not direct this conversation – the academic administration as curriculum developers should lead. While it can be frustrating to only advocate change and not enforce it, libraries need to push information literacy as more than simply library expansion.

McDonald, J. (2004). Information literacy or literate information? MLA Forum, 3(2), pp. 1-14.

Middle States Commission on Higher Education (2003). Developing research skills and communication skills. Philadelphia: Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Owusu-Ansah, E. (2004). Information literacy and higher education: Placing the academic library in the center of a comprehensive solution. The Journal of Academic Librarianship,  30(1), pp. 3-16.

Wilder, S. (2005). Information literacy makes all the wrong assumptions. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 51(18), p. B 13.

books for librarians

Some time last year my library acquired The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel. At the time, it reinvigorated me as a librarian. His ruminations and historical accounts had me considering the book as a precious community treasure.

During that time, I also attended the 2011 ACRL conference in Philadelphia. I attended a lecture by Jaron Lanier. Sadly, as it was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday not many people attended. But for me his ideas and blunt honesty as a Silicon Valley insider really awakened me. He made mention that libraries and publishing (as we are today) are doomed. He suggested we stop trying to play technological one-upmanship and refocus on the ROMANCE of the physical – the library space and the book as object. He was slightly critical of librarians and our desire (stereotypical or real) to “fit in” with other academics. We tend to want to be considered intellectuals according to other intellectuals’ criteria. We never really created our own scholarship, in a sense. Lanier seems to be a “you’re doomed, but you can still have fun dancing around the flames” kind of guy.

I’m ok with that.

So, I got over feeling doomed and enjoyed the fire…temporarily. But about a year later I’m anxious about libraries and wondering why we seem so 19th century in our daily practices. Yesterday, while poking around my local library branch, I came across Manguel’s A Reader on Reading. This is a collection of essays in which Manguel poetically argues that reading makes humankind human. It’s a return to the printed word as a foundation of our evolution – and a bridge to our future. He considers Alice in Wonderland, Borges, Saint Augustine, and Judaism. Reading is the ultimate interdisciplinary practice.

Yet again Manguel is reminding me of the pleasures and responsibilities of being a gatekeeper to the book.


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

libraries and books

A recent Library Babel Fish blog post from Inside Higher Ed has me again thinking about The Future of the Academic Library: A Symposium: Bridging the Gap. Sponsored by Library Journal and EBSCO Host, the free conference was held at Temple University on Friday, November 11.

At Library Babel Fish, Barbara Fister writes about The Myth of the Bookless Library. It’s a bit of a misnomer, but perhaps also quite telling about how we view “book.” Fister means a library of books, but digital ones. There is a lot to consider – money, mostly, but also access. These are the reasons academic libraries consider e-books; subscribing is cheaper and means more options for researchers. We close the argument.

The Librarian by Guiseppe Arcimboldo, circa 1570

Fister doesn’t think we should finish arguing just yet. She mentions the 2001 book (printed, mind you) The Myth of the Paperless Office by Abigail J. Sellen and Richard H. R. Harper. It’s a running joke, Fister notes, that we now have upkeep of “disorderly desktops both literally and digitally.” I’d also suggest reading John Seely Brown’s and Paul Duguid’s The Social Life of Information (2000) which directly reminds us that context is king.

At the symposium, we were given the opportunity to listen to 4 students speak frankly about their library use. As Temple students, they use Temple University’s Paley Library, but the message can be carried across disciplines and university sizes. The students all read on their iPhones, but not if they wanted to concentrate. Concentration takes paper. Some current research from the University of Stavanger affirms this.

The students did mention using an e-textbook because it was cheaper (and lighter) than a regular textbook, but enjoyment reading and scholarly research requires hands-on reading. Additionally, reading on a laptop or other mobile device means distractions – Facebook, namely, but also email and online shopping. As much as this digital generation is addicted, they have taken the first step and admitted it. Now those students are asking us for help – dead zones in the library and technology time-outs.

Perhaps we could help by giving them something to read on paper.

the future of academic libraries

On Friday (11.11.11) I attended The Future of the Academic Library: A Symposium: Bridging the Gap. Sponsored by Library Journal and EBSCO Host, the free conference was held at Temple University. The event press release suggested this would be a day “to overcome our misperceptions and stereotypes about our colleagues and our users.” This is a lofty goal, notably because it means first admitting to having misperceptions and stereotypes.

The keynote speaker was Kristin Antelman, Associate Director for the Digital Library at North Carolina State University. Well-spoken and fearless, Antelman confronted the unspoken gaps and even hinted at librarians’ own fault in the widening of these gaps. She took her view of organizational environment from Johnson and Scholes’ Cultural Web (seen below), adding in the elements of information and trust.

The Cultural Web

An important part of this is web is Symbols, similar to brand. The future of the academic library may mean a re-branding; this will be a tremendously difficult task, Antelman says, because the founding purpose and mission of libraries have become deeply embedded principles in our culture. During the segment of speakers that followed, Damon Jaggars (Associate University Librarian for Collections and Services at Columbia University) articulated this culturally rooted library branding by suggesting we (in the profession) are “organizationally stuck in nostalgia.” This immediately reminded me of Jaron Lanier’s comments during his keynote at ACRL 2011 – if we cannot compete with the Internet and maintain innovation at lightening speed, perhaps we should return to this romanticism and pull on the heartstrings of our culture to lure them back.

competing values framework
competing values framework

Antelman concluded by addressing organizational culture from the competing values framework of Robert Quinn and Kim Cameron (see above). An informal survey of “future leaders” in the profession demonstrated what I’m sure most of us view as our libraries’ culture: they see their organization as a hierarchy but want it to be more of an adhocracy. Then again, how do we know the administration does not also want this too? This goes beyond librarianship; we all want an environment where we can be creative and work within our strengths.

A key word Antelman used was “timid.” We are timid and, looking around the room of the symposium, I had to agree. At least, we looked timid. We looked tired (well, it was Friday) and unsure, hesitant to walk with our heads held high because we might trip over something. I see timidity in myself since I joined the profession. Not necessarily afraid of failure or taking initiative, but desperately wanting to blend in. I wrote the word large and bold on my day’s notes – and now I resolve to walk away from it without turning back.