When I think about big ideas, about the kind of ideas that feel not only important but somehow beautiful just in their existence, I often come back to the ghost of Bas Jan Ader. Ader’s entire oeuvre embodies a kind of searching, a haunting Romantic conceptualism, but it is his final project, “In Search of the Miraculous” that comes to mind in these moments. It was a performance, one that involved an attempt at a single-handed east-west crossing of the Atlantic, and one that ended in disappearance at sea. We go in search of the miraculous and perhaps we don’t come back.
Back in December of 2010, around the time I was doing the post-day-job night shift in library school and became convinced that I was seeing a ghost on the swing sets of McGolrick Park in Greenpoint, I read an article by Robert Darnton, University Librarian and Professor at Harvard, called The Library: Three Jeremiads in the New York Review of Books. I was writing about the impending closure of the Warburg Institute’s library in London for one of my classes and thinking a lot about romantic conceptions of the library-as-place. The Warburg itself seemed haunted by the memory of Aby Warburg, his tragic personal history of repeated institutionalization and his characteristically romantic writings on memory, history and art. In the wake of this controversy around a relatively small special library, academics were publicly lamenting the plight of libraries everywhere, as non-STEM education budgets were being slashed across the country (and the globe). There was almost this sense of the library as a dying breed, libraries (like physical, living bodies) were “becoming extinct.” Of course, this is an old argument and we can follow this fraying thread forward to the ongoing controversy surrounding the New York Public Library’s research materials. But what thrilled me about Darnton’s proposal was that, yes, it was utopian but it wasn’t entirely nostalgic. Darnton was not waxing poetic about dusty tomes and card catalogs, he was proposing a public library enterprise of a Google-ian scale. He argued that we cannot rely on Google to digitize and preserve content free-of-charge to the general public because, as a corporation, Google’s primary responsibility is to its share-holders (and besides there was that whole drama with the Author’s Guild). Instead, he claimed, we needed to create a massive public digital library. And so the Digital Public Library of America, which launches today, was born. At the time I remember thinking that the dream of an online public library seemed: a.) impossible, b.) romantic, and c.) politically radical.
The Digital Public Library of American (DPLA) relies on open access to cultural heritage information — images, text, video, etc. — online. I’ve written elsewhere about the challenges that face open access in fields outside of the hard sciences. These are very real problems, including copyright restrictions on primary source material as well as a very different culture and economic model within academic publishing outside of the sciences. (Most humanities research is self- and not government-funded, which makes the incentive to make things openly accessible much smaller.) To ignore these problems is to simplify the issue but despite these restrictions, I think Gary Hall‘s assertion that open access should be politico-ethical issue for scholars (and librarians!) outside of the sciences is important to take into consideration. I particularly like his description of the state of discourse around media as one that is plagued by a “dialectical ghost.” Hall argues that most scholars on new media and open access tend to fall into two camps: technophiles or technophobes. While we should be cautious of web utopianism, there is no doubt that the internet has changed and continues to change the way we think, interact, live. So, yes, I think it is a politically radical idea to challenge Google’s hegemony on internet searching, on access to cultural information. Yes, I think it is radical to propose large-scale public-funded projects and follow through with them. And, yes, I think it touches upon something missing from a lot of social policy in this country, namely a belief in public education, a belief that everyone has the right to access resources. As the digital divide diminishes, this battle will continue to be fought online.
And yet I realize that both this project and my reading of it are still haunted by some romantic ideals of the Library. I buoy my arguments up with politics and new media discourse, and yet I still imagine a vast space of information, the ghost of Alexandria, perhaps? Darnton even admits to an Enlightenment utopianism in this project, an ideal of a data-driven library of Alexandria, a vast network of hubs that might enlighten us all. Furthermore, in this past year, with the tragic death of Aaron Swartz we have survived the open access movement’s first martyr, at least in the media’s eyes. With suicide, martyrdom, and with martyrdom, mythology. And, so, I find myself back with Bas Jan Ader; with these big ideas that are still never too big to fail, that still perhaps come with a price. And, yet, there’s hope, right? We can hope that the library is not yet a ghost, that the open access movement and projects like the Digital Public Library of America represent some shifting future for the library. Whether it succeeds or not, the idea of the DPLA is both beautiful and important. And that’s a start.
A few weeks ago, in the depths of winter, I was on the F train with my friend Ian, a former literary agent who is writing a book on emo-core and who has the best cat in the world, appropriately named Jarvis. We found ourselves lamenting the cocktail-party-banter-turned-Tumblr-tagline issue: what, in fact, do we do? For me, it always seems to fall into some space in between.
When I was a kid, I thought I’d have the kind of career I’d be able to reduce to a handy sound bite to complement my martini-drenched olive that I’d be casually twisting on a swizzle stick. Two graduate degrees later, it has devolved to more of a glazed look as I awkwardly tinkle the ice in my bourbon and pretend that no one asked me a question.
I ended up in library school after working in customer service and magazine publishing post-art history MA. My decision to apply was really a combination of wanting to be like Giles and listening to a friend of a friend talk about how much she loved her work as a children’s librarian during a lively dinner party one late spring evening. Up until that point, I’d never really thought about librarianship, although I’d always loved writing and the idea of books-as-objects.
A few twists and turns of fate later, I now sell software-as-a-service for an educational non-profit. This is, of course, a glib understatement of what I actually do. I work for ARTstor and I talk to academic librarians all day about how they manage multimedia on their campuses. I manage trials of Shared Shelf (a multimedia asset management and cataloging software), I do online trainings, I design webinars, and I process subscriptions, among many other things. At professional conferences, I often find myself inhabiting the strange space between librarian and vendor. I’ve spoken on behalf of ARTstor and also on my own research. And often there are topics that fall somewhere in between.
I started working for ARTstor during my first semester of library school. I love my job (they let me do stuff like this!), I am deeply proud of a lot of the work we do and it’s great to be part of a forward-thinking organization. Furthermore, through the network of librarians I now work with, I got involved with ARLiS NA (I am soon-to-be the coordinator from the Women and Art Special Interest Group). I started writing about the politics of open access in the field of art history for a few professional publications. I got involved with the Occupy Wall Street Archives Working Group and subsequently wrote about our experiences archiving work produced by activists. I started a feminist Tumblr that I somewhat facetiously call “a community built archive of true conversations between women.” In some ways, my work enables me to do other work.
But still the question haunts me: am I a librarian? Is a librarian a profession, a degree, a mindset? I believe passionately in access to education. I care deeply about art education. I have a vague understanding of image metadata and intellectual property issues. But, am I a librarian or simply someone who writes about libraries and archives? Is there necessarily a difference? If I think of librarianship as a means of enabling access to information, is that not something I do, albeit via some alternate avenues? I realize that these are perhaps obvious questions. Nonetheless, they come up again and again for me, at cocktail parties and in moments of both self-assurance and self-doubt. And, I imagine I’m not the only one, in our field and beyond.
In fact, it seems to be a generational condition. As more and more work is relegated to the unpaid and underpaid — internships, unpaid freelance, fellowships, supposedly paid freelance — young folks find ourselves doing so much “work” outside of our day jobs. For example, my friend, Ian, deals with copyright issues by day and writes about music at night and on his lunch breaks. Another friend, Kate, is a social worker/writer-about-love. I know a number of independent curators and freelance designers. I often think that what I do falls somewhere between writing, librarianship, and oversharing on the Internet.
Within the field of librarianship, “thinking outside the box” or shirking traditional models of employment has become somewhat of a buzz topic of late. For example, a coworker and friend (another Ian!), formerly a librarian at the Yale Center for British Art, is on a panel at ARLiS entitled “How Non-Traditional Paths Can Serve Your Career and Society.” I love that his talk is called “Not Not a Librarian.” Other speakers will explore (forced?) interdisciplinarity and careers in publishing. I must admit to being more than a bit skeptical of this topic. It seems a somewhat dubious product of our capitalist age to require a $30k graduate degree to be then told to “think outside the box.” Where did all the traditional library jobs go? Is it problematic that we are sometimes forced into jobs we never thought we’d do, after dropping all that cash? And, honestly, do we really need an MLIS to learn to “think outside the box”? Nonetheless, there are so many of us coming out of library school nowadays that traditional roles are simply not always an option, nor necessarily desirable. And, this latter point is key: I think the future of librarianship perhaps exists in these as-yet-unexplored liminal spaces.
…And yet I often find myself describing my organization as one peopled by “art historians and librarians.” Which, again, begs the question: is librarian an ethos or a job? And while I’ve never been much of a joiner, am I really that reluctant? The more I write, the less I think so.
I am Erin Lee Barsan, your guest blogger for the month and I am currently in my second semester of library school. I’m ashamed to admit that I have not had a lifelong love affair with books, nor do I have many fond memories of visiting the library as a child (although I am definitely making up for lost time now). My background is in design and photography, and I came into this field with the intention of focusing my graduate studies almost exclusively on archives. The thought of being a bona fide librarian had never crossed my mind…until now. The more I read and the more classes I attend, the more I am realizing the incredible and diverse opportunities that this field has to offer. My world has been turned upside down over these past few months, and I look forward to sharing some of my experiences and discoveries with you all over the following weeks.
Photo courtesy of goodereader.com.
The other day a colleague emailed this article to me from The Atlantic Cities, “The Future of Librarians in an EBook World.” Upon reading the title, I fought the urge to immediately roll my eyes. I may be new to the profession, but I am already tired of listening to the debate over the future impact of EBooks (e.g., “In 10 years no one is going to be reading physical books!” “Au contraire, EBooks are to us now what VHS Tapes were to the 80′s!”). Regardless, I gave the article a chance and was pleasantly surprised by the author’s perspective. Instead of attempting to predict the future, we are presented with interesting ways in which libraries are gaining funding to use technology while still remaining patron-centric. For instance, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation is investing in a concierge-like reader’s advisory program in Oregon that seeks to build long-term relationships between librarians and patrons.
One of the things I’ve become accustomed to hearing since entering library school is how the job market is practically hopeless and how technology and the internet have played a large part in this, but I cannot just accept that it is so simple. At one point in the article the author states, “All the technological bells and whistles a library can employ are pretty much worthless if there’s no one minding the store.” As information professionals we must be advocates for the importance of our careers and think creatively about how technology can contribute to our work instead of how it can endanger it. Although I am sure not all of the projects discussed in this article will end up being successful, they will hopefully pave the way for more innovative initiatives in the future.
In early December 2012, the Trustees of the Saint Johnsbury Athenaeum announcedthat they would be laying off their entire library staff (11 employees over part-time and full-time positions) and expanding non-library positions.
The Vice Chair of the Trustees was quoted as saying, “We’re not laying off anybody because of cause… Nobody has done anything bad. It’s not their fault the Internet was invented.”
Laid off library staff were invited to apply to five new positions (2 FT librarians, 2 PT librarians, 1 Curator of Collections). Under this reduction in library staff (of which, neither professional experience in libraries, nor an MLS, were required of applicants), the Athenaeum also announced that they would be expanding services, “we are launching new programs and services to make the Athenaeum more relevant to the present and the future.” These are tough times for libraries, art institutions and nonprofit organizations. This we know.
Now more than ever, nonprofit and public library Boards are responsible for fundraising, grant writing and management, best practices in accounting and auditing financial records. But above all, stewardship of endowments (if they’re lucky enough to have them) requires creativity and vision and observance of the actual needs and uses of the community. Saint Johnsbury, Vermont can be acomplex place–gateway to the rugged Northeast Kingdom, yet home to gilded era cultural institutions and private academies. The Athenaeum is one such vestige of the wealth that was sent back East during the late 19th Century; one part art gallery, one part public library, this private nonprofit institution is home to an unchanged collection of Manifest Destiny paintings. It is also the largest public library serving the disproportionately underserved Northeast Kingdom.
In the wake of the actions, the Vermont Department of Libraries made cautious statements of neither support nor condemnation. Vermont Library Association released a statementin support of the laid off library staff. The library listservs were abuzz with energy and engagement; library staff and librarians were heatedly discussing the meaning and function of libraries and democracy. Taking a cue from our peers back in New York, Urban Librarians Unite (ULU), my wife (Amber Billey), Marti Fiske, Ed Graves, Kat Redniss, Helen Linda, Lisa Buckton and I decided to do something. And so, Rural Librarians Unite (RuLU) was born.
The first task of RuLU was to organize a “Hug the Athenaeum” event, modeling the solidarity action after ULU’s “Hug the Library” of New York Public Library. We released our own statement, this time sharing it with local media instead of limiting ourselves to library listservs; we felt that the story of cutbacks to public services warranted the attention of the public. We also created a facebook page (like us!), and a twitter handle (@RuralLibrarians).
At the event, we expected maybe 50 people max. 230 showed up! We had enough folks to go around the Athenaeum a time and a half! An impromptu speak out happened. Afterward, we gathered with the community and citizens of St. Johnsbury. The Vermont Workers Center supported the community in taking next steps that include transparency and public input.
The story is still unfolding in St. Johnsbury, but a resounding support for literacy and libraries was demonstrated. The People Make the Library! We have started a conversation about the value of libraries and the tenets of the Commons. RuLU certainly plans to continue advocating for such in future projects!
I’ve been grappling a lot with this question lately, because there’s been some talk in the press about the exploitative nature of internships, and how they are used as a substitute for hiring real employees. I’m also of the mind that the internship system favors those who can afford to work for free – and thereby makes it much more difficult for students from less privileged backgrounds to move ahead. That said, while in school I was able to intern at a number of institutions, and the exposure was instrumental in shaping the archivist I have become. I worked with a variety of collections, and from each I learned how to meet the specific needs of the materials, as well as determine the kinds of collections I would like to work with in the future. Not to mention that my current job started as an internship – albeit a paid one.
Payday at the Navy Yard, Courtesy of the Brooklyn Navy Yard
No company wants to appear immoral, which I do understand is a little different than a company that acts morally. A recent piece in the Atlantic argues that even if the relationship between organization and intern is mutually beneficial, it doesn’t mean it should be legal. The example they give to demonstrate this point is of a 17 year-old requesting a shot of vodka from a bartender in exchange for money. Although both parties “benefit” from the transaction, we as a society have decided that this should be illegal based on the larger consequences that come with this kind of action. I ask you, is an internship really akin to underage drinking? Does a 17 year-old benefit from a vodka shot, or are they merely gratified?
Sweatshop or apprenticeship? Courtesy of the Brooklyn Navy Yard
When I was interning I intentionally chose organizations that offered the kinds of experiences I knew I would need once I entered the workforce. Some have said that the work given to interns should not overlap with the work of regular employees. The fact that my tasks overlapped with the paid professionals I was working with was all the better in my opinion. What good is working for free if all you are asked to do is fetch coffee and change the toner? I think that rather than focusing on the freeness of internships more attention needs to be paid to the kind of work one is offered in exchange for their free labor.
Lunchtime! Courtesy of the Brooklyn Navy Yard
Of course, this does little to close the gap between privileged students, and those that are less so. Clearly we do need some sort of regulation that ensures companies that have the means to pay their interns do just that. Still, in the job challenged post 2008 world there are extremely good arguments for being and bringing on an intern. I can say from personal experience that for the former it offers so much more than a hangover the next day.
I was surprised (and pleased) to get so much feedback on my post about the future of libraries and the skills and mindset new librarians should be cultivating. I wrote that post as a way to prepare soon-to-be-degreed librarians for the profession, but a lot of commenters pointed out that current librarians might need to hear that message even more. And they’re right. I think my plea for engaged, creative librarians is motivated largely by my fears about how slow-moving the library world has been in the last decade or two.
When I meet library school students, and current librarians, who seem disinterested in learning about library technologies, or who are skeptical about the value of social networking, the semantic web, smart phones, and e-books, I fear for the future of our profession. We are already playing catch-up in so many areas, and we just can’t afford to continue to waffle in the face of technological change.
I wanted to follow up a bit with some more specifics about what kind of technologies new librarians should be familiar with, or at least know a little something about. These are the things that I think could have a massive positive impact for libraries, if (and when?) we figure out how to implement them.
Maybe I’m just influenced by my current research, but I think linked data could have a huge impact on how libraries manage bibliographic records and catalogs. Right now we’re all doing this ridiculous thing wherein we each buy a copy of some very expensive software, and we copy records into our own personal database, so that bibliographic metadata is duplicated over and over and over again in thousands of different places. I think this is silly, and frankly, leads to poorly managed metadata, and way too much overhead in terms of librarian labor. There is big potential for significant change in the way we manage our metadata, but we need people who understand the benefits and the costs, and who are willing to take a chance on something new. Want to know more? Check out W3C Library Linked Data Incubator Group, and the LODLAM blog. There are some really terrific articles on library linked data, if you have access to a database like LISTA. I highly recommend this article, “The Cataloger’s Revenge: Unleashing the Semantic Web,” by Virginia Schlling, for a good overview.
Another significant thing to start paying attention to are changes in scholarly publishing models, especially if you’re interested in academic librarianship. Due to recent changes to requirements for NSF grants, faculty have to start paying a lot more attention to data management, access, and preservation, and libraries are starting to play a huge role here. Researchers in all fields, even the humanities, are going to start generating more and more data, and we can help them manage it. A lot of people are interested in changing scholarly communication models, and libraries can be significant players, but we have to get involved in the conversation. And we have to be knowledgeable about research practices, digital archiving practices, and the technology that can be provide access to research produced by our universities.
It’s become pretty clear that ebooks are here to stay, and that reading is going to shifting more and more into the digital sphere. We have to be ready for that, and we should be working tirelessly to ensure that we aren’t excluded from the publishing and reading spheres. Learn about digitization initiatives like HathiTrust and the Google Books Project, stay up to date on current lending practices for ebooks, and be aware of challenges, both technological and legal, and potential solutions. You might love the smell of books, and hope that your print collections will continue to draw patrons, but you can’t pretend ebooks don’t exist. If you don’t already have some kind of ebook reader, you should. Kindle apps are free! At the very least, you should have some real experience with digital reading practices, because more and more of your patrons will.
There are some very exciting changes on the horizon for libraries, but we have long had a tendency to bury our heads in the sand and continue doing things the same way, because it’s what we know, because we’re intimidated by the scope of change needed and we don’t think we have the money or time to do what has to be done. But the longer we wait, the harder those changes are going to be.
I’m going to step off my soap box now. I’m heartened to hear from so many young librarians (and I’m not talking about age here) who are enthusiastic about the challenges ahead. Good luck to all of you in your job searches and in your sure-to-be-exciting careers in library land. Hopefully I’ll meet some of you at future conferences and library events: Library land is a small place, after all.
Tomorrow is the first of March. Thankfully, this signifies that winter is almost over. But, it is also Library Advocacy Day (the day formerly known as Lobby or Albany Day.) The New York Library Association (NYLA) needs support for this event to be successful. Here are two main reasons to support and participate in Library Advocacy Day on March 1st in Albany, NY.
Looking at the library aid cuts over the last couple years, library aid has been already reduced five times since 2008 from $102 million to $84 million in 2010. The proposed 10% cut would reduce library aid to $76 million, which is below 1994 levels, according to NYLA. For more information on library aid cuts and advocacy points, please check out this informative PDF from NYLA.
With these cuts, library aid makes up for less than 1% of the state budget, yet libraries serve 57% of the state’s population (10.6 million library card holders), or 75% of households in New York. Libraries need to be able to continue to provide access to information, from job assistance to education programs, even helping families save money by borrowing materials and attending cultural and literacy programs. Libraries need support to continue these quality services.
For those reasons above, if possible, making a trip to Albany on March 1st, will help strengthen the message that libraries need more funding. We need to speak with legislators and have them understand the value of libraries in our communities. If you aren’t able to make the trip to Albany, there are still ways to advocate for libraries. Call/write your legislators and reinforce this message. NYLA has several advocacy tools to help with this process: NYLA Advocacy Tools
Museums, archives and libraries all contain collections of assets determined to be valuable or useful at a level of degree the institution decides is acceptable for retention, circulation, or preservation. Their holdings reflect years of acquisitions made for the benefit of their unique user groups. In return, the intellectual results from these collections have inspired an ever expanding body of knowledge produced by their patrons. The cycle is relatively simple: collection > access > creation. But, what fuels this cycle? What keeps the perpetual expansion of knowledge in movement? This is not at all easy to answer; however a single element could be at the nucleus: information.
In his paper â€œInformation-as-Thing,â€ Michael Buckland drew upon the work of early 20th century European Documentalists. Wherein he described their thinking that â€œobjects are not ordinarily documents but become so if they are processed for informational purposes (Buckland, 1991, p. 355).â€ From the Documentalists point of view, documents are seen â€œas a generic term to denote informative thingsâ€ and â€œinclude natural objects, artifacts, objects bearing traces of human activities, objects such as models designed to represent ideas, and works of art, as well as texts (Buckland, 1991, p. 355).â€ He reports the example of an antelope that â€œwould not be a document, but a captured specimen of a newly discovered species that was being studied, described, and exhibited in a zoo would not only have become a document (Buckland, 1991, p. 355).â€ According to Suzanne Briet, a cataloged antelope is the primary document and all derivative documents are secondary. The example of the antelope brings to light a fundamental principle about information- that any thing (whether a text, a mineral, or a living entity) is not informative information until it is intentionally made useful for â€œinformational purposesâ€ and has made an informative difference.
Taking his cues from cybernetics and Enlightenment philosophy, Gregory Bateson wrote, â€œwhat we mean by informationâ€”the elementary unit of informationâ€”is a difference which makes a difference (Bateson, 1972, p. 459).â€ With this simple statement, he removes the concept from the thing (or antelope), and perfectly isolates a core principle: that information is a difference.
Information as â€œa difference which makes a differenceâ€ simply explains that characteristic(s) of something expose its respondent to elements which effect the respondent somehow. Through this detection, inevitable relationships form between differences. These relationships are the foundations for systems. As relationships form and are defined within a system, a structure emerges. â€œEvery effective difference denotes a demarcation, a line of classification, and all classification is hierarchic (Bateson, 1972, p. 463).â€ The demarcation for an â€œeffective difference denotesâ€ itsÂ relationship- a line drawn within the classification. Relationships are the binding connections between differences.
Through a myriad of disparate cataloging standards, the digital data held within libraries, archives and museums is unfortunately rendered inoperable resulting in isolated collections stored within institutional networks. This problem is well documented. What these institutions all have in common however, is the foundation of collection systems built through basic descriptive differences and their relationships. A semantic ontological solution could bridge the inoperable divide that locks cultural heritage collections in their digital silos.
What I have suggested over past few weeks in my posts, is that catalogers are the key to access. After all, without our records, there wouldn’t be a catalog. We understand the delicate differences and relational structures that bind and define our collections. As technology advances, we cannot forget the importance of our role. We must continually develop new methods for achieving better organization and access for the ease of our users…because without users, what use would collections have?
I couldn’t resist stepping outside the metadata structure this week to talk about the latest advice column by Randy Cohen, “The Ethicist” for the New York Times. To quickly sum it up, a reader asks whether it is OK to keep a book overdue from the library if she is willing to pay the fines. The Ethicist responds with a resounding NO, telling the eager reader “You must return the book.” Well, this librarian couldn’t disagree more!
For two reasons: books are for use, and libraries need money.
He goes on to compare library fines to speeding tickets. While I understand his analogy, it’s ridiculous. Speeding is dangerous and can possibly cause physical harm; while keeping a book overdue may be annoying, there is absolutely no danger. Ranganathan’s first law of library science simply states, “Books are for use.” If this reader is still working her way through the book, she should take the time she needs to finish it. This is exactly why the library fines are so low, to encourage book return, but permit lateness if necessary. We want our readers to actually read the books.
Cohen writes, “The public library is such a splendid institution.” Yes it is, but it is also in splendid need of money! Although they only account for a fraction of a library’s budget, fines do supplement their income. And in this economy we need all the supplement we can get! Some libraries have tried creative approaches to eliminating fines, but there’s still a cost to the patron. So I say if a user is willing to pay the fine, let them keep the book on their time.
Librarians would leave Brooklyn, usually to go back to go back to their home state, and those left behind would wonder briefly what their lives were like now, and imagine they were easier and more dull and lonely. When my turn came, I bought a baby blue linen dress with pink buttons from a boutique in Park Slope that was (I imagined) suitable for a small town New England children’s librarian. The drama of my interview was heightened arriving at the Beverly Depot, which was featured in the David Mamet movie State and Main. The Beverly Public Library was designed by Cass Gilbert (he also designed the Woolworth Building) and it has an impressive beaux arts facade. My heels echoed loudly on the marble floor.
Beverly Public Library from the town common
For those readers who are considering a change (maybe not this year, but if/when the job market opens up) I can say it was the best possible thing for me, and I often day dream about not having done it. The transition from Brooklyn to Beverly was not easy and not dull.
What initially attracted me to my current job as Head of Children’s Services in Beverly was having a desk, phone, computer, office, and department that were all mine. In Brooklyn I was managing the school age services for something called a Cluster, a group of five branches that were adjacent on the map but had little in common besides an overwhelming need for library services. In my cluster were both Brooklyn Heights (next to St. Ann’s School and Borough Hall) and Red Hook (next to the projects with their million dollar blocks.) Managing staff and services in five locations when you weren’t any one’s direct supervisor was a daily challenge.
In Beverly I can be constant and responsible within the powerful framework of children’s librarianship. I choose books, I choose staff, I make the schedules and I select, present or delegate programs. It helps that my entire staff is more experienced and organized than I am, except the eager, thoughtful and creative teen-aged pages. The community seems to agree on what it wants from the library and is involved in fund-raising, special events, and the daily work of the library. Every year the public librarians meet with the school librarians to write the summer reading list that is used throughout the city.
favorite weeded books
Having a computer and a desk and ordering powers has made me a better librarian because I take the time to keep up with literature and reviews in a way I didn’t in Brooklyn, where programming and weeding and going to meetings were my main responsibilities. Unfortunately I also obsessively read Chowhound and mourn my lost lunch options. Lucky for me, Massachusetts is close enough that I can get to Roberta‘s when I have an uncontrollable craving.
Having a fresh start has given me what I said I wanted: more professional experience in a different setting, a desk, a closer relationship with my family and old friends. It has also given me some things I didn’t dream of: enough sleep, a new understanding of and respect for my chosen career, and a consistent writing practice through my blog.
where I walk the dog
Thank you for reading my posts this month and thanks to Maria and Sarah for sharing their space. If they ask you to do anything, say yes.