Why I May Be Leaving the Library Field and Why Others Might Follow.

Welcome to My World

There is so much information in the world - and here I go adding to the pollution. But hopefully some of this pollution will be useful for others out there struggling to find their way in the world of libraries and information. Happy reading!


Is This the End? – Part II

I keep hoping that things will get better and that I’ll be able to start moving in a more positive direction within libraries but the evidence for why I need to move on (especially from where I am now) just keeps piling up.  Here are my three additions to my still growing list:

  1. Reverting to the Traditional: We are in the midst of a wave of new policies being handed down by the top admins that are going to make life in the libraries very difficult for our students.  These policies are being couched as “necessary” and “well-meaning,” but I only see a negative environment being cultivated.  Starting this summer we will have 3 new policies in place: No Food or Drink Above the 1st Floor – Only water in closed and covered containers; Quiet Floors will become Silent Floors, All other floors in the stacks and the elevators will be whisper locations, The 2nd floor will be a quiet conversation floor; To check out any devices, students will now need to show a valid student ID as well as a valid state-issued photo ID. 

    These all have their pros and cons, I won’t go into here.  Suffice it to say, the next step may just need to be closed stacks, since that is where we are heading.

  2. We’re Recruiting, You’re Paying: Serving on a search committee is a duty that I don’t take lightly, so I understand there are sacrifices for time, etc.  But now I’m also being asked to sacrifice my own hard-earned money.  Not only have I been required to travel to the other campus, which eats up my gas (about $45 more this month for just two trips), but I’m also asked to attend both lunches with both candidates and pay for my own meals.  This equals out to about $15 per meal, so $60 for both candidates.  I’m out over $100 of my own money – not fair.
  3. You’re Invited – But Don’t Come: Why would you invite me to attend a meeting that you say is important, tell me to attend if there are items on the agenda of importance to me and my staff, and then indicate that my attendance is an indication to you that I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TO DO!!!!  You have got to be kidding me!  Final straw…back broken.

Is This The End?

I’ve had a lot of time to think about this, and I’ll continue to think on it for another week or so, but I know that it is time to make a decision. Do I stay or do I go? Should I continue being a librarian even though I now feel as if I work in a hypocritical field full of unethical liars? I’ve decided to rededicate this blog to my inner ruminations on the field and all of the reasons that I feel I should move on. My first topic of focus: Ethics in the workplace.

I’ve see a number of examples of what I would consider to be unethical behavior in Libraries, including the ones that I have worked in. On occasion these unethical acts have been directed at others, but lately they have been directed at me (or at least have had a direct impact on me). Let me detail these for you.

  1. Telling someone that because they verbally agreed to a job that they had to still take that job and threatening to sue them if they tried to leave.
  2. Rewriting a job description so that a specific person would become qualified for the position (and so that another person would be precluded).
  3. Rewriting a job description so that a specific person would not be eligible to apply for a position.
  4. Reopening a job search so that someone who missed the deadline could get their application in.
  5. Finding out that one of your employees was intentionally trying to sabotage another employees position…and doing nothing about it.
  6. Withholding information about the organization when offering someone a position because you know that it will impact that person’s decision about the position.
  7. Spreading false rumors about someone just because you don’t like them.
  8. Trying to get someone fired because you want their position.
  9. Hiring someone because they are a friend and not based on their qualifications or ability to do the job.
  10. Ignoring a problem employee because you don’t want to deal with them, and then asking the new person to deal with it (when they have no background or knowledge of the issue).
  11. Telling someone to change an evaluation because you want to avoid a possible grievance (even though the evaluation as written is accurate).

I could go on, but these are the 11 that have come to mind.  I’ll likely have to add more to this list as I go.

I’m not a perfect person and I don’t expect perfection from others, but I do expect to be treated with respect and to not have people behaving in underhanded ways just to get what they want, and to hell with the impact on someone else.  Is this enough to make me want to leave the field?  Yes, and I’m only getting started.

When I Go Back to Teaching, I am So Doing This!

Exam Wrappers: No, I’m not talking about putting some pretty paper around an exam before or after it is given.  I’m talking about the process of having students actually stop and review their exams after they have been scored.  I’ve heard of teachers doing this, and I vaguely remember having a few teachers almost do this, but I really think that the idea is not only sound, it is necessary.

The basic idea about Exam Wrappers is that after you give the exam back to the students, you don’t just end things there.  For the most part, this is what we are all used to.  We took the exam, we got our grade, we are done.  But that doesn’t encourage students to make sure they fully know the material, nor does it help them to determine what mistakes they may have made (and thus, allow them to formulate a way to avoid those mistakes in the future).  So when you give the test back, you should have the students do two things:

  1. Review the test and examine the questions they got wrong.  Have them answer why the question was wrong and find the right answer.  If they discover it was simply a mistake on their part (they knew the answer but calculated wrong, etc.), then encourage them to start using techniques to review their work before they submit it. The suggestions for how to help them during the review go on and on, but the important part is to have them review and determine the correct answer.
  2. Reflect on how they prepared for the exam in the first place.  If they scored poorly but they also didn’t bother to study, then they shouldn’t be surprised at their score an they should also know what to do to correct things in the future.  If they studied but still scored poorly, have them try to figure out why their study methods didn’t work.  Also offer them suggestions that might help them in the future.

I could go on, but I really just wanted to commit this term to memory for later use.  I’m not teaching now, but I plan to again in the future!

Heading to the Land of Disney, So Thought This Was Appropriate!

Where I currently work, we are often talking about (bemoaning, *itching about, etc.) the fact that on occasion, our most popular areas have long lines.  At the front desk we are playing with the idea of traffic flow as a way of alleviating the issue (though I think that we are only making it look less like a long line).  But others are discussing the idea of queues, and other line dynamics.  My colleague found the following article about how Disney is tackling their line issue and though some of it is beyond the grasp of the majority of places who don’t rake in the money like Disney, I must say I see validity in some of their efforts.


We don’t want to go as far as putting chips in our students ID cards so that we can track them (no need and definitely against the law of librarians), but the idea of visually monitoring a space so that you can see when a build up is happening, and dispatch someone to take care of it before it gets out of control?  Genius!  Why couldn’t we do that?  Webcams would be a less expensive option, and though we wouldn’t have some sort of control center buried in the bowels of the library, no reason why the person on standby for the desk wouldn’t be able to keep an eye on things and alert the desk or go out and help as needed.

A bit far fetched, but thought I would dive into the convo a bit since I’m heading out to to Anaheim and will hit Disney for one evening at least…too bad the article says the average park visitor only gets to ride 9 rides (10 now with their new efforts).  Guess I’ll have to hope to get even half that many in…and see if I can spot the times when Disney is responding to the ebbs and flows of their crowds.


I’m Published…So Why Am I Not Excited About It?

My colleague and I got final word that our article was published and though I am always happy to be published, I was not overly excited by this news.  Here’s the whole story…

My colleague approached me about writing an article about middle management in Libraries.  As someone who was new to middle management, I thought it was a good idea.  Around the same time there was a call for book chapters for a book about…you guessed it – middle management in libraries.  So we sent in a proposal and received word that our proposal was accepted.  We went to work on the book chapter and after a few months and multiple revisions we submitted it by the deadline for review.  This is where the fun begins…

The editors e-mailed back saying the book chapter needed a lot of work – it did not fit the style that they were hoping for and they felt it either needed to be completely reworked or they suggested we submit it to a journal for publication.  After talking with the editor we decided that the reworking just wouldn’t work and we chose to go with the idea of submitting it for publication in a journal.

After some research we went with an Emerald publication on library management and changed our format to fit their rules and submitted the article.  Then we waited.  A few weeks later we got a response saying that a couple of reviewers thought our article wasn’t right for the journal and that we needed to make serious revisions or go a different route (turn it into a research article rather than a case study).  We were disappointed but we understood that they didn’t want to publish it.  We decided to table it for a bit and think about how to rework it into a publishable article (with a different angle).

Then one day, out of the blue we get an e-mail saying that they needed us to complete our paperwork to release the article for publication and also complete the main information (abstract) page.  My colleague contacted them back to confirm that they had actually  meant to e-mail her about this article and they confirmed the title and content.  We were beyond confused at this point, but of course we decided to go with it.  I felt the article still needed a lot of work but if they wanted it, no problem!  We submitted it with the information requested and then waited for them to tell us “ha ha, April Fool’s” or something like that.

Then we see it in print and get the information.  Surreal.  Here is the link for those interested: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/fwd.htm?id=aob&ini=aob&doi=10.1108/01435121211242263.  I still don’t feel it is my best work but we did put ourselves into it wholeheartedly!

Off-Site, Out of Luck? Might As Well Be!

I was reading the Chronicle and the story about the idea of off-site storage at the N.Y. Public Library grabbed my attention: http://chronicle.com/article/Debate-at-NY-Public-Library-/131615/. Why?  Because I recently discovered a little secret about what off-site storage really means where I work and I must say, I was not a happy camper!

So, a couple of weeks ago, I was in a meeting discussing a number of catalog related questions with others as we work to implement a new feature in our catalog.  During this meeting, it was brought up that we had more than one link already in the catalog that our users had to figure out (the hold link is the one we knew about).  I asked which one and someone said “off-site.”  I thought about this and realized that I had seen the link but never used it.  I asked “Doesn’t it just work the way that the hold link does?”  And was greeted with a blank stare. 

Deciding I should try it for myself, I waited until I got back to my office and went in search of an off-site book.  Finding one, I clicked on the link in the catalog, expecting to be asked to login to my account.  Instead, I was taken to the login page for our library express services.  Whoa…back up…I have to fill out another form to get this book?  Not good, but I figured that library express would just retrieve the item and it would only take a day or two to get it.

I go to the next meeting with this information and prepare to discuss it at length.  This time when it comes up, I finally get the true, full picture.  “Oh, we don’t use library express to retrieve the item, we either interlibrary loan it or purchase it for the patron.”

Screeeeeeech!!!! (Those are my mental breaks being put on).  Hold the phone – we don’t get the item out of off-site storage?  Nope.  Why not?  Because apparently the books are shrink wrapped onto pallets (and in no particular order) and cannot be accessed.  So right now there is no off-site storage – there is off-limits storage, or no way you are getting anything out of here storage.  But no true off-site storage.

Now, there are a number of things about this that bother me, but I won’t go into it any further.  I just wanted to point out that off-site can mean so many different things and when using that word so carelessly, you can give someone the wrong impression of the availability of an item.  Off-site?  More like Out of Luck!

No Man Is an Island…So Why is My Reference Desk One?

I was reading an article in the February 2012 issue of College & Research Libraries News called “The Approachable Reference Desk.”  The Librarians at Norwich University describe how they made a change from the older, traditional, but less functional reference desk, to one that was designed to help them provide better services.  I was not surprised by anything they said in the article – most librarians will agree that the traditional reference desk just doesn’t work.  It’s not inviting enough.  But what I did like was the condensed list of criteria that they wanted to have for their desk:

  • Smaller and less intimidating desk footprint.

  • Minimal storage space.

  • Reduced depth for less distance between librarian and patron.

  • Taller desk to facilitate librarians being eye-level with patrons.

  • Patron seating for longer consultations.

  • Naturally accommodate both seated and standing interactions

Ahlers, D and Heidi Steiner. 2012. “The Approachable Reference Desk: How Norwich University Kreitzberg Library’s desk got a new look.”  College & Research Libraries News, 73(2): 70-73.

I look at this list and realize that our desk has a large and intimidating desk footprint, maximum storage space, large depth to create distance between the librarian and the patron, no patron seating and it doesn’t easily accommodate both seated and standing interactions.  The only thing our desk has going for it is that it is a taller desk so that most of the staff there (depending on their height) are on an eye-level with the patrons.

It’s funny that I as reading this article just days after talking to one of my staff members about how I wish we could change our desk.  The biggest barrier I have against me right now is the fact that the desk is fairly new.  It was just put in a few years ago and very expensive, which means that there is likely no way we’ll be changing it any time soon.  But as I look around our learning spaces, I realize just how much of a hindrance the desk will come to be as the Library transitions around it.  As we create more student spaces that will create more traffic flow in that area, we’ll have to find a way to make the desk “work” better for us.

We’ve considered making some changes to the desk that would better integrate it into the space, including creating a genius-bar style set up where there would be multiple computers on the desk facing towards the students that could be logged in to and used either by students in need of a computer or by staff at the desk who need to put someone on a computer as they work with them.  Due to the constraints related to the desk itself and the cost, we were unable to do that.  But the funny thing is, that the OIT staff on the other side of the desk have put out laptops that do pretty much what we wanted the computers to do.  And we’ve put together mirrored monitors that we use when working with students at the desk. 

These efforts aren’t perfect, and they are all done in response to the desk in its current configuration.  I’ll keep an eye out for opportunities to make more changes as we continue to renovate our libraries for the students.  But if I could get rid of the island that we’ve created in the middle of the sea of students that live in our library, I would be one happy librarian!

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