Editorial: Getting to Know Us – A Single Project, the Reason We Write, and a Source of Inspiration
In Brief: In this editorial, In the Library with the Lead Pipe Editorial Board members individually answer three questions: If you had to work on only one project for the next year, what would it be? Are you writing/researching for the love or for the tenure? (Submitted via Twitter by Lead Pipe reader Kenley Neufeld.) And, what was the most inspiring idea you encountered this year?
By Editorial Board, Ellie Collier, Brett Bonfield, and Erin Dorney
If you had to work on only one project for the next year, what would it be?
I pick weeding. This is very much a community college perspective, but I LOVE weeding. I love pulling the circulation reports and doing the sorting to look both at what is high use and what goes on my weeding list. I love walking through the stacks and getting more familiar with the collection. And I love pulling those unused and outdated items out of circulation. Within the community college setting I feel very strongly that books are for use. I’m sad when I see that 1997 copy of the Opposing Viewpoints on alcohol getting more recent circulations than the 2012 copy next to it. I’ve been doing a first pass level weeding at my current library: items that we’ve had since 1995 (the date of our ILS migration) and have never circulated, but I would love to be doing a much more thorough job.
Ever since I’ve been at Portland State, there has been a project to which I’d like to be able to fully commit. My predecessor received an LSTA grant to create a digital library of local and regional grey literature from community stakeholders regarding urban planning – the Oregon Sustainable Community Digital Library. (One of my liaison areas is Urban Studies and Planning.) The project was high profile, inventive and included creating and maintaining community relationships with local agencies and organizations. However, due to a variety of circumstances it hasn’t been active, nor has the site been given any attention for quite some time.
Although I’m currently working with a team to assess the project and move it forward in some fashion, I don’t know what that fashion will be. Had I the resources and time, I would dedicate an entire year to this project to make it what stakeholders and I wanted. It would mean getting into the community to talk to local agencies, organizations and faculty and student stakeholders; assessing the current collection; innovating ways to display its content and data; and incorporating all of these things into one meaningful, flexible and beautiful end product.
Maybe it’s the nature of managing a smallish, solidly middle class public library, or maybe it’s my lack of imagination, but my job doesn’t seem to lend itself to focusing on one project to the exclusion of others. Fortunately, I’m able to supplement my day job with volunteer projects that reward sustained effort.
The volunteer project I’d like to spend next year working on is the one Kim alluded to in the editorial she published last October, specifically her discussion of turning words into action. These actions can be summarized as funding fellowships, organizing conferences, and providing venture capital. I’m particularly interested in that last idea: seeing if it’s possible to apply to libraries what we’ve learned from innovative start-up incubators like YCombinator, Google Summer of Code, SXSW Accelerator, and maybe even the tongue-in-cheek Pinboard Investment Co-Prosperity Cloud.
The George Street Carnival, a student-run literary journal at my institution, was revived in 2011 after a 3.5 year hiatus. If I had the chance to pick one project to focus my energy on for the next year, it would be to help that organization design a beautiful and streamlined online journal. The group of students working on the journal are amazingly talented and dedicated to showcasing the creative work of students, faculty, staff, and alumni (including poetry, fiction, and visual art). However, the journal is only offered in print. I’d love to help them expose the work to a broader audience, build the reputation of the publication, and maybe even digitize the past 37 years of print issues as a unique digital collection.
I would build a digital scholarship center/program at Florida State University. We are slowly working toward it and have some great folks involved already, but if I could dedicate all my time to making it happen in the next year, I would. In my mind this would encompass many of the things I’m interested in: securing financial support/grants, writing, brainstorming, working on teams with people I never get to work with, working with faculty in a new and different way, identifying the most interesting thing that we’d want to create, creating said thing, promotion and outreach about the project, then restarting the whole cycle. I’d really love to be actively involved in doing, making, building, participating, especially as things like the DPLA, PressForward and Anvil Academic are moving forward so quickly.
Don’t make me pick one thing! No really, I don’t want to. Please?
The truth is that my first librarian job in reference and instruction is also the first job I’ve ever had that never got boring. I tell people this all the time, non-librarian people, and they raise their eyebrows at me. I know what they’re thinking. To the uninitiated, being a librarian sounds like the most boring job they could imagine, but the truth (according to me, anyway) is that we have one of the richest, most varied, and wonderfully complicated careers in the world. Of course, that’s also what makes our jobs so challenging, since we have to juggle all those things and still try to maintain both our professionalism and our mental health. It’s not always easy, but it definitely keeps things interesting.
Becoming a small library director has taken my love of variety to a whole new level: I’ve gone exponential! Not only do I get to do all the things I enjoyed as a reference and instruction librarian, but I’ve added, well, everything else that libraries do. All of it. It’s a delight.
From @kenleyneufeld, “Are you writing/researching for the love, for the tenure?”
Both of my full time librarian positions have been with community colleges and while they both have something roughly akin to tenure, neither call it that and neither have a publishing requirement. So while I’ve transitioned to only editing here at Lead Pipe, I was writing and am editing and researching for the love, but also for the experience and the “it looks good on a resume” factor. I’m proud to have written what I have for Lead Pipe, and I definitely grew as a writer thanks to the review process, but I’m even more proud of how much I’ve grown as an editor.
Not that I should speak for anyone else, but I will: we all definitely do it for the love. For myself, never did nor do I currently see my participation in Lead Pipe because of promotion and tenure. (Although it doesn’t mean I won’t include my Lead Pipe activities as part of my annual reviews, third year review and tenure review!)
When we started Lead Pipe I was frustrated with the library profession and its discourse. I was a new librarian (just out of school one year!) who had endured a very unfulfilling Emerging Leaders experience and was already in my fourth post-degree job.((For more on this multiple jobs experience, see my Struggling to Juggle article from February 2011.)) I was hungry to have my voice, my thoughts and ideas heard. When Kim approached me to join this forming group blog I jumped at the opportunity. I had no thoughts regarding my career, promotion or tenure (I wasn’t in a tenure-related position at the time)–I just wanted a platform to contribute my ideas and to participate in professional discourse.
I completed both my MLS and MIS in 2007, but I did not have a “permanent” job until February 2012. (I am currently serving under my ninth job title, and the first that is an actual line-item on my library’s budget.) Throughout my career the one thing that has been steadfast has been working with this publication and with this group of people. It is my community and it is my librarian home. That’s why I do it.
I write because I don’t know what it feels like not to write, and I don’t ever want to find out. Fortunately, we’re in a profession that values writing and offers many opportunities for those of us who wish to publish. Unfortunately, our profession also frequently requires people who don’t wish to write to come up with something publishable in order to meet their tenure requirements.
For me, both. Like Brett, I love writing and couldn’t imagine my life without it. I’ve had my own blog since 2008 which has been an outlet for my journey as a library school student and professional librarian. When I was invited to join the Lead Pipe, I knew that it would be a great opportunity to move beyond my comfort zone (doing more research-based, peer-reviewed writing versus the very casual posts I do on my own blog) and get experience with project management, group dynamics, and editing. I’m in my fifth year at my institution and just submitted my tenure and promotion applications this past November. I was definitely thinking about those things when I accepted the invitation to join the Editorial Board. I wasn’t just thinking about the importance of having Lead Pipe publications and responsibilities on my CV (although they are there, of course). I am also interested in sparking conversations on my campus about open ethos and non-traditional scholarly publishing. I figured that one of the best ways to “put my money where my mouth is” was to include Lead Pipe articles in my tenure application as peer-reviewed articles and include information about the importance of our journal within the field of librarianship (including some alt metrics). I am hoping that this inclusion will create conversation and debate among the Tenure and Promotion Committee when they review my applications this spring. Hopefully we can move toward the point where these new types of open scholarship are viewed on par with publishing a book or article in a traditional journal.
In my case, librarians at Florida State are non-tenure track, so to answer the question as asked, I write for love of the game. But, I would say that I also write for reputation and thinking about the future of my career as a librarian, which is sort of a “tenure-ish” sense of doing. I’m committed to the idea of “Big Tent Librarianship” and writing for a publication like In The Library with the Lead Pipe causes me to be engaged with new and different ideas that circulate through the field. There’s also that underlying thing where I just plain feel like I have something to say, and learning to write for the web has helped me express ideas that I might not have expressed elsewhere. I am very interested in the structures of promotion and tenure, especially as applied to librarians, and I hope that there will be many more productive conversations about where writing fits into our professional practice. I’m glad to (hopefully) be a part of those discussions.
I write for the fame and fortune! I hear the check’s in the mail.
And I write for the same reasons as Brett: because I can’t not. I make sense of the world by putting my fingers on a keyboard and seeing what comes out. I make sense of my work in the same way. A friend of mine recently fell in love with the idea of using dictation software to write. He thought it would be much easier to talk into a microphone and “magically” compose articles and other documents without having to write or type. I’m the absolute opposite; I need to see words appear on a page or screen in order to fully process ideas and feelings. I wouldn’t call it “love,” exactly, because while the process is rewarding I don’t necessarily enjoy it. But I do find it valuable and necessary to the way I live and work. If there are some professional benefits, that’s just a bonus.
What was the most inspiring idea you encountered this past year?
I’m going to go with this ALA panel: Insert Catchy Label Here or the End of Gen Y, Digital Natives and the Millennial Student Myth, in particular Virginia Eubanks. I like to call myself a technophile Luddite. I trend towards early adopter in my personal life, but I do a lot of very basic tech support and computer help at the reference desk and balk at high tech movements in libraries. My students can’t afford their textbooks, they definitely don’t have iPads and most don’t have smartphones. This talk gave me another perspective on the assumptions we (on this side of the digital divide) make about technology and how best to combat the digital divide.
The month of November was really inspiring this year. During November I participated in two community writing events, both of which were organized and conducted using social media: Academic Writing Month (Acwrimo) and Digital Writing Month (Digiwrimo). They are both challenges asking authors to write 50,000 words in one month, or to set some ridiculous writing goals and to do their damndest to achieve them. Although November seems to have been some sort of writing month for quite some time, with National Novel Writing Month beginning in 1999, the idea was novel to me, and 2012 was the first year Digiwrimo existed.
During November I attempted to write seven hours a week, and I think I just about did it. Without Acwrimo or Digiwrimo, this would definitely not have happened. My next article at Lead Pipe will probably address my experiences with these events, and engage the idea of librarians as writers. So, more to come!
I’m not as methodical in my self-testing as Seth Roberts and others who are leading self-tracked lives, but I like to experiment with new ways of doing things to see how they feel for me. The most effective techniques I’ve found in the past year involve intervals and repetition, the kinds of technique that Erica Jesonis discussed in her Lead Pipe article. For me, it’s Pomodoros at work (I like Tomato Timer) and Tabatas at home (I like the free version of the Seconds interval timer), plus I incorporate intervals in one of my runs each week. Also, while it’s not exactly interval training, I found BJ Fogg’s free, weeklong, 3 Tiny Habits course to be useful in much the same way: small tasks, clearly defined, associated with reasonable expectations, and repeated at sensible intervals.
I’m very excited about Librarian Design Share, launched in early December by April Aultman Becker and Veronica Arellano Douglas. The design of the visual tools we use in libraries (handouts, web graphics, signage) is important and I think this kind of resource will inspire library communities to think more creatively about sharing their message, whatever that message happens to be at the moment.
I draw inspiration from so many different things, it’d be difficult to narrow it down to one idea. This year I read much less professionally, but much more personally. I started my first job. I listened to a lot more music, and saw a lot fewer movies. I bought a home, voted for a president and am preparing for a first child. I left something behind and joined something new.
There are a few stand out things that have stuck with me through it all. I had the opportunity to see Henry Rollins speak here in Tallahassee in October. Aside from the fan boy, “OMG that is actually HENRY freaking ROLLINS” thing, he said some things that sunk in. He said all around the world when he asks people what they want they most often say “a little water.” I still don’t really know what to do with that, but I think about it all the time.
Professionally, I have returned many times to two articles: Giving it away by Kathleen Fitzpatrick and Reality Bytes by Bethany Nowviskie. Both talk about the future directions of academia, and by extension the academic library, in the context of higher education, and both are from the perspectives of not necessarily librarians, which I tend to think is in incredibly valuable perspective to consider. I could quote these to bits, but I’d encourage you to take a few minutes and just glance through them. The idea that I’ve pulled from these is that things are changing, and for the better, and that there are opportunities to be involved in good, new work. That has really defined my year, and I hope it continues to for years to come.
A fun, slightly quirky, inspiring idea that I’ve been revisiting and rehashing all year comes from a book called The Library 2025 (forthcoming from ALA Editions) that I’m editing with former Lead Piper Eric Frierson. The book is a collection of visionary essays about the future of libraries, and one chapter compares future librarians to park rangers. Now it may be that my nature-loving, granola-munching past is an influence here, but the metaphor of librarian as park ranger strikes me just right: I love thinking about the world of information as an environment that we inhabit just as we inhabit an ecosystem or landscape. I also love the idea of librarians as individuals who would have a home base (the park lodge/office) but would also rove the landscape to help people at the point of need. The idea is a little mindbending and the essay itself is both realistic and deeply imaginative. All in all, my props go to Hugh Rundle for lighting up my brain with the vision of librarian park rangers. The more I think about it, the better I like it.
And, of course, I’m eager to see the uniforms.
Thanks for sharing this. I loved reading everyone’s perspectives looking backwards and forwards. And while I feel slightly ashamed to say this, it was a nice holiday break to read an ITLWTLP article that was skim-able and that didn’t require deep, soul-searching thinking :) I’m particularly struck by Kim’s description of the “uninitiated” – I too struggle to convey to my friends, family and patrons the wide (and fascinating) array of work we tackle on a regular basis. This post reflects that spectrum really well and it makes me excited for a new year in Library Land. Thanks, writers.
Erica, I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one! Glad we could help you get your enthusiasm up for 2013. And don’t be ashamed at all: I think I speak for all of us when I say it was a nice holiday break for us to write this, too. :)
Thanks for sharing a little about yourself. It’s good to know out writers and editors in a different light. You are doing excellent for the profession.