Ilene F. Rockman CARL Conference Scholarship

November 11th, 2013 § Comments Off § permalink

carlconference_logoIf you are student planning to attend the CARL conference in April, don’t forget to apply for the Rockman scholarship! I hear the odds are in your favor. From Daniel Ransom:

Applications for the 2014 Ilene F. Rockman CARL Conference Scholarship are due on December 3, 2013. Two candidates will be awarded $500 each to subsidize participation in CARL 2014 Conference: Leadership in Action taking place in San José, California from April 4-6. To be eligible, candidates must be currently enrolled in a formal master’s degree program in library and information studies and be CARL members.

More eligibility details and application instructions are available on the CARL website:

In the past, scholarship committee members have noted that many of our strongest applicants applied because they were directly encouraged by a supervisor, library director, or mentor. If that describes you, please consider any library school students you know and share this information with them.

Completed applications should be submitted to Daniel at


Shokunin and the power of habit

June 10th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

Recently, I was thinking about the idea of craftsmanship in library work when I came across the Japanese concept of shokunin. While the term historically applied to many types of handicraft, in its current usage it implies a certain level of artistry, wisdom, and skill in working with objects: a level that can only be gained through a lifetime of introspection and practice and through repeating the same task thousands of times over until it is done in just the right way.

Since shokunin specifically applies to working with physical objects, it’s difficult to apply it to library work. Except in rare cases (perhaps cataloging and restoration/preservation work), librarians don’t repeat the same tasks over and over again. At least, not in the same way each time.

In the film Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the story of Jiro Ono, chef-owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro and a recognized shokunin, the food critic Masuhiro Yamamoto tries to outline Jiro’s work ethic:

  1. Take your work seriously
  2. Aspire to improve
  3. Maintain cleanliness
  4. Be a better leader than a collaborator (aka, never be satisfied)
  5. Be passionate about your work

Now here is something that I can apply to my work as a librarian. While I don’t know that I could ever attain a level of perfection equivalent to the idea of shokunin, through force of habit I can in the least put these same practices to work. (Admittedly, #3 doesn’t exactly apply but perhaps we could take it metaphorically to mean “orderliness of mind”).

Habit has been on my mind much of late. With a newborn now in my care, time is more precious than ever and yet the ability to schedule any type of professional development outside of work has proved… difficult. But I believe (and experience has taught me) that through small habits we can do great things. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, says:

We tend to overestimate what we can do in a short period, and underestimate what we can do over a long period, provided we work slowly and consistently. Anthony Trollope, the nineteenth-century writer who managed to be a prolific novelist while also revolutionizing the British postal system, observed, “A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.” Over the long run, the unglamorous habit of frequency fosters both productivity and creativity. (via Brian Pickings).

And so I’m trying to develop a game plan. Nothing drastic. I simply want to try to set aside a few minutes at various points of the day to do simple tasks: reading, writing, meditating, reflecting, having a conversation with a colleague about an important issue. Little things that taken en masse could make a world of difference. In a few decades (long term planning!). Perhaps in this way I can aspire and reach toward some level of artistry when it comes to the work that I so love to do.

On breaking up with libraries, by Nina McHale

June 3rd, 2013 § 3 comments § permalink

Last week, Nina McHale told us why she’s breaking up with libraries. Nina is currently the Assistant Systems Administrator for the Arapahoe Library District but will soon be moving into non-library work with Aten Design Group. While my interactions with Nina have been predominantly through online professional groups, I’ve come to know her as a highly talented, creative web designer. The loss to our community is significant and one we shouldn’t be too quick to write off.

Nina notes two major reasons for her decision to leave LibraryLand: finances and a general frustration with technology.

Like Nina, I live in a two-income family. We just had our first child. While we could probably live on my wife’s income alone (though not without sacrifice), we certainly could not live off what I make as a paraprofessional at a private university. Well, perhaps if we sold the house and moved into a 2-bedroom apartment in the Valley. Maybe.

As Nina points out, salaries for librarians often go for much less than the median pay for positions in other fields that require similar skills.

I knew going into my MSLS that I wasn’t going to get rich working in libraries, but accepting less than I’m worth puts undue strain on our family finances. I’m not willing to be a martyr for my profession if it means compromising what I want out of life for myself, my husband, and our kids.

If we want to keep talented, creative people on staff, we don’t have to pay them exorbitantly, but we have to pay them enough so that they don’t have to worry about it.

Nina also points out the lack of technological innovation. We spend millions of dollars on products that fail to provide decent user experiences and rather than demanding changes or working together to collectively build a better product, we acquiesce and continue to pay for substandard ones. As one commenter on Nina’s post put it, why didn’t librarians invent Yahoo in the 90s? We could have. We should have.

We sacrifice instead of create. We compromise instead of improvise. We undersell our worth and consequently are underpaid for it.

It’s been a year since I finished my MLIS degree. I am still working in the same position for the same pay (adjusted for inflation). As I see it, until I’m able to move into a position that makes full use of my degree, every day worked is a loss of potential earnings.

Don’t misunderstand me, I love the work I do, but as Nina points out, “we are so eager to please that we kill ourselves helping people for compensation that’s all too often below the country’s median salary.” Eventually, the need to provide for our own will catch up with us and at that time if there is a shiny job in a different market, can you blame us for leaving?

Follow up: Bringing professional organizations into professional life (at ALA Midwinter 2013)

February 15th, 2013 § Comments Off § permalink

On Sunday during ALA Midwinter this past month, the ACRL New Members Discussion Group hosted a moderated panel entitled, “Back in the Stacks: Bringing professional organizations into professional life.” If you missed the session, I’ve posted the session notes to our ALA Connect space. Special thanks to Elizabeth DeBold from UNC-Chapel Hill for recording the conversation. Without her, we wouldn’t be able to make these notes available. =)


Bringing professional organizations into professional life (at ALA Midwinter 2013)

January 15th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

ALA Midwinter 2013 logo

If you’re attending ALA Midwinter next week, I hope you’ll join the ACRL New Members Discussion Group for a moderated panel on the role of professional organizations in the professional life of academic librarians. The panel will be Sunday, January 27 at 10:30 in the Westin Hotel, Elliot Bay. Tyler Dzuba of the University of Rochester, River Campus libraries will be moderating a panel that will include:

  • Suzy Palmer, Dean of the Greenwood Library at Longwood University
  • Coral Sheldon-Hess, Web Services Librarian at the University of Alaska Anchorage
  • Nan Schichtel, Information Literacy & Outreach Librarian at Grand Rapids (MI) Community College
  • Gene Springs, Business Information Services Librarian at Rutgers University Libraries.

Panel description: 

Where is the common ground between our roles in organizations like ACRL and our day-to-day work as academic librarians? How can we translate our professional service into practical skills from 9 to 5? Join ACRL’s New Members Discussion Group in a moderated conversation about the relationship between our professional careers and our day jobs. A panel of four academic librarians will share their experiences, offer advice, and answer questions. We hope you’ll join us!

Link to ALAMW Scheduler

Need a 2013 resolution? Try online learning

January 3rd, 2013 § Comments Off § permalink

online learning ornament

2012 was the year of the MOOC. Massive open online courses remained in the center of the digital spotlight starting with the announcement of MITx in February, throughout all the discussions of badges, and to the recent news that at least one online platform is offering to connect high performing students directly to employers.

This year, as you think about your resolutions (or “projects”), consider enrolling in a MOOC or taking a self-directed course of study online. Why? Especially as academic librarians, I believe we ought to be familiar with these emerging landscapes of instruction. We may find ourselves there one day or, in the least, we will certainly encounter students who have been there.

Here is a list of course catalogs to get you started:

photo credit: Gideon Burton on flickr.

Call for Presenters: “Back in the Stacks: Bringing Professional Organizations into Professional Life”

October 22nd, 2012 § Comments Off § permalink

Panel Title: “Back in the Stacks: Bringing Professional Organizations into Professional Life”


ALA Midwinter Conference

Sunday, January 27, 2013 at 10:30am-11:30am

Room Location TBA


Where is the common ground between our roles in organizations like ACRL and our day-to-day work as academic librarians? How can we translate our professional service into practical skills during the 9 to 5?

ACRL’s New Members Discussion Group is seeking panelists for our upcoming moderated conversation at ALA Midwinter 2013, which will discuss the relationship between our professional careers and our day jobs.

Topics may include leveraging organizational experience at work (or vice versa), balancing one’s job and one’s professional involvement, getting involved on a small budget, publishing or presenting about the workplace at conferences, maintaining a professional network to improve one’s work performance, and more. Be creative! The dynamics of the discussion will be driven by the unique experiences of the panelists.

If you are interested in speaking on this panel, please complete the submission form available at:

Submissions will be accepted until November 2, 2012 and all candidates will be notified whether they were selected by November 9, 2012.


September 12th, 2012 § Comments Off § permalink

I have a pile of ACRL and ALA publications on my desk at work that I’ve been neglecting for months. Today, I decided to pick up the latest College & Research Libraries News to browse through during an unusually quiet lunch break. After reading an article on leadership by Steven Bell and another on gaming by Bohyun Kim, I realized (read: rediscovered) how much I love reading good work. Concise, well-written, inspiring work. I also realized something more dire: I’ve been letting myself go. I’ve neglected my reading diet these last few months.

This past summer was the season of convergence. Everything came to head, a number of opportunities presented themselves, life took some unexpected turns, and I was forced to do something that I rarely do: say no.

You see, one of the pleasant aspects of my job as a library supervisor at USC is its flexibility. When I hire the right people, train them well, and give them the autonomy they require to do good work, I have the option of turning my time and attention to the aspects of library work that interest me the most: reference and instruction, scholarly communication, the role of technology in IHEs, collaborating with colleagues, developing workshops, strategic planning, and the information needs of individual patrons (to name a few). I still spend the majority of my work day cataloging, but there is always a bit of time left over for more.* And when I run out of time, I rarely hesitate to work off-the-clock.

Scattering myself every which way requires many things: motivation, ambition, the support of friends and colleagues, etc., but at a more basic level it requires, quite simply, energy. And I’ve been seriously lacking that of late. I started a light chemotherapy regimen in July for a non-cancer-related issue and the medication leaves me completely exhausted (and often sick) at the end of the day. Who goes to bed at 8pm and sleeps for 10 hours? This guy.

The details are boring (other than the fact that one side effect is an aversion to coffee… which doesn’t help!) but suffice it to say that I haven’t been my usual busybody self.

But that is changing.

The side effects (as I was told) are supposed to subside after two months and I’m finding it easier to push myself again. Which leads me back to what I began with: reading well. When it comes to deciding what to read, I usually oscillate between what bubbles to the top of my social media streams and what I consciously set out to read/review on a regular schedule. Lately, I’ve been relying entirely on the former and have been finding it… lack-luster. Much of the work published in the latter category simply isn’t rising to the top. Granted, I probably need to update my filters, but to me this illustrates a greater need to actively curate my professional development, rather than letting the professional conversation curate me.

Reading well… reading better… inspires me to work harder, to do better, to make it happen, to level up, etc. etc. At some point, you have to put the book down and walk out into the world, but it’s not a bad place to start.


*It also helps that I have the blessing of my supervisor to expand my professional experiences and participate in non-cataloging work.

Contributing to the profession and getting active: a mini-presentation

June 11th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

This weekend, the California Library Association’s Student Interest Group sponsored a collaborative, informal workshop on professional development. The event was headed up by Young Lee and I served as one of the panelists along with Cynthia, Mary, and Allison. We spent a good amount of time talking about networking and getting the most out of professional organizations so I thought I would share some of what we discussed. Here is a brief slideshow (with storm troopers).* Main points and bullets below.

1. Join digital communities. Great way to keep up with the latest discourse and trends. Also a way to introduce yourself to others in field and begin building relationship that can flourish IRL. Specific communities mentioned included: ALA ThinkTank, active listservs, and #libchat on Twitter.

2. Give away your time for free. We didn’t get into this profession for the money. Your best work will often be “off the clock” (cf. the invisible college). Develop your reputation as a willing leader and dependable colleague.

3. Build something. Eventually, you want to be know for what you can ship. Thankfully, we live in a startup-friendly culture that encourages fast prototyping and beta stages. Be willing to fail, but also be willing to put as much out there as you can until something sticks. You are what you make.

4. Build you own community. Determine what your own interests are and build communities around them (cloning yourself helps). Leverage the low cost of digital technologies to bring interested parties together to work on #3 above.

5. Limit yourself. It easy to spread yourself thin in our profession. Limit the number of professional organizations you work with so that you have the time and attention to dive into the nitty-gritty of each. Also, consider alternating the perspective from which you interact with the organization: top-down vs. bottom-up, e.g. get involved with the leadership of one organization and the ground work of another.


*Ok, so actually this was a presentation I prepared but didn’t have the chance to present. But these slides were too much fun to just cast aside so I hope you enjoy them.

Congratulations SJSU SLIS graduates!

May 20th, 2012 § Comments Off § permalink

Congratulations to all the graduates of San Jose State University’s SLIS program that walked across the stage (IRL or virtually) this past weekend. I look forward to working with many of you in the years to come and hope to hear no end to the great work you’ll do.