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Learn by Finishing Things

October 24, 2014

Hello, dear readers! I hope you have had a lovely week and a wonderful weekend planned. Today, I just want to share one thought on learning today and that is the importance of finishing things. So let’s get to it.

If you’ve never had the chance to hear Neil Gaiman talk in person, I do hope that you’ll get the chance at some point. He is a fantastic speaker and it is always wonderful to hear him reading his work and sharing his thoughts about writing and creativity and life. While not as good as a talk in person, this video of Neil Gaiman talking about the importance of finishing things is almost the next best thing:

I love this advice, along with his 8 tips for writing, and believe that it is incredibly important advice to remember no matter what type of project you are creating. There is always enthusiasm in the beginning, then the hard work sets in and a lot of people let a lot of projects go when they get to the middle bit. The middle bit, of basically any big project, is not the fun part. It isn’t the beginning when you are energetic and everything seems lovely and wonderful. And, they’re not the end bit where you can see the light and time for a nap. The middle is hard, but the middle is where you put on your big girl panties and deal with it, as my momma would say. You keep going and then you finish your project. And you learn.

I try to help my students see that finishing their work, even if they don’t want to and even if it is more difficult than checking their texts, is important. That they will learn and feel accomplished by finishing projects, even if they seem audacious or impossible. In a 10-week quarter, this might mean tackling a research question they actually care about, rather than one that is easy. In their lives, it means whatever they want it to mean.

For me, finishing things makes me smile. The journey might be important, but if you never get to the destination the journey isn’t so hot either. In research, I’m not finished until I’ve written up the article, submitted it, revised it, and (with any luck) seen it published. I’d love to stop with just my research sometimes, but then I haven’t finished.

Just like with a blog post, nothing writes itself. It is up to us, always, to actually finish what we’ve started.

This is going to be the last blog post on The Waki Librarian for a while. I’m going on hiatus through the beginning of December while I try to finish a few other things and then see where I want this blog to go next. Have a lovely weekend, dear readers. Allons-y!

Blog Action Day 2014: Inequality

October 16, 2014

Happy Thursday, dear readers! Today is Blog Action Day 2014 and this year’s theme/cause is inequality. I recommend checking out the Blog Action Day website to see a list of all the sites posting on the theme today as I know there will be some really excellent posts. Today I just wanted to write a bit about inequality and libraries to share some thoughts with you.

It is almost too overwhelming to know where to begin writing about inequality, so I’m going to zoom in a bit to libraries. Most of us have heard or seen the horrible statistics that show just how unequal the division of income and goods and medicine and opportunities are spread around the world. I’m sure some of us have contributed to charities, non-profits, and other organizations dedicated to helping fight inequality, in its many forms, in many places around the world. And I know some of us have volunteered time working with organizations whose missions are to help others. Trying to rectify inequality can seem like an impossible task and I know that it causes some people to give up hope, to throw up their hands, and to let others take point. But that isn’t the way to make the world better, but I understand the feeling of desperation and hopelessness and cynicism. So today, I’m not going to reiterate statistics or offer a way to fix the world (not to mention, I’m not sure how to do that), but I do want to talk about libraries and why I truly believe our work is vital in helping individuals succeed.

I work at an academic library on a campus of around 14,500 students. We have an incredibly diverse student population with many students who are immigrants and/or the first in their families to go to university. Many of our students come from what is termed “disadvantaged economic” backgrounds. Most of our students work, some work to support their extended family. We aren’t an Ivy League school and we don’t have the huge endowments, but we do have a fantastic community of students and we, at the library, are here to help them succeed.

In the library, we have the only open computer lab for students on campus. Some of our students don’t have internet access at their houses, so having a place to use our high speed internet is vital for them to succeed in their classes. We help everyone who comes into the library and access to information, I believe, is one of the key ways that we can fight inequality. Gaining knowledge, being able to make connections while in school gives our students the chance of succeeding, of “making it” in our incredibly competitive, individualistic, and income-centric society. We know that we can, in the library, help students succeed, even if for that day it just means being able to get their textbook on reserve instead of buying one or being able to find an article so they don’t think they have to pay for journal article access. While the cost of university is straining our ideals of public education here in the United States and contributing to a rising inequality, at least the libraries are still a place where people can come and get help and resources for free.

Because we are fortunate to have an information literacy course that is required of our first-year undergraduates, we have more of an opportunity to impart information and skills and resources that can help them with their schoolwork and with their lives. I take seriously my duty to teach them not only how to research and evaluate sources, but also how to use their new skills and knowledge to help others in their family do the same and to question the status quo so that they have a chance to create what they want in their lives. Their goals and mine for our lives might be different, but we can work together to see each other succeed.

Librarians, no matter where they work, have the ability to use their talents and knowledge to help obliterate the inequality of access to information. This is not some impersonal task, but one that is deeply personal and helps us work together on an individual level that I think makes the task seem manageable. I may no be able to change the world, but I can help someone today.

So while we may complain internally and externally that librarians don’t get the credit or respect that we deserve, we do get the thanks of those we help. And, in our small way, in our quiet way, we take a stand every day to do our part in going against the tide that says everything has to be a monetary transaction, that there always has to be those who have and those who do not have. Libraries gird us with the knowledge that allows us to reshape the world. And, I hope we reshape it to be more equal, more just, and more merciful.

So, dear readers, I leave you with John Oliver on Last Week Tonight talking about the Wealth Gap in the United States, and hope that you have a good day, a productive day, and hopefully a day that leaves the world a bit better than when you awoke. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Reminders and Work

September 19, 2014

Happy Friday, dear readers! Today the library faculty at my university are off on a faculty retreat (aka longest meeting of the year) to get our plans in place for the next academic year. Being a quarter campus, our fall term starts next week and so I think everyone is getting a bit of the start of the term panic. I’m looking forward to the new year and am hoping my class in the fall goes well. Fall will always be the start of the new year for me since my calendar and plans still revolve around the school calendar. So I thought it would be a good idea today to share a trio of articles to perhaps inspire you and your colleagues at this arbitrary start to another year.

While this blog often has a lot to do with reporting on libraries and archives and work in there, I often find some of the most useful articles for me come from blogs that are not from within the library or archives world. Lifehacker is one of my favorite, although only in RSS feed; I find their website interface overwhelming and distracting. But that is neither here nor there. They’ve been having some really wonderful reminders about building reputation and being success at work in the recent months, so I wanted to share two with you.

I really liked this short post on using the “Old Faithful” method to build your reputation, probably because I both love Yellowstone and wish that more people were as reliable as Old Faithful. The advice given here is so true. It may not be as flashy to always be dependable and show up day in and day out, as opposed to grabbing the spotlight once or twice every year with something grand, but it is the way to become a valuable colleague and employee. I will take someone dependable over someone who gets a stupendous idea now and then any day of the week because I know the dependable person will get their work done and I won’t be left scrambling or trying to cover for them at that last minute.

The post reminded me of a book I just finished reading, Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. The descriptions of the routines that many of the artists have/had were mundane and regular. Those were the ones who seem to produce a lot of work, too. (Always exceptions to the rule, of course, but I’m not arguing about that here) I think that is a good reminder for all of us that people notice our routines, they notice if we keep our word or not, and they act accordingly.

An earlier Lifehacker article reported in a similar vein that the most important trait of successful people: conscientiousness. So let’s all try to be as conscientious as we can in our work. We’ll get more done with less fuss and stress. We might even have time for some fun along the way.

I know from talking with many of my friends and colleagues in the library field that while we often love our work and find it fulfilling, we also want to time to pursue other interests and hobbies. But, as I think many people can relate to, we are tired after work and don’t feel like we have time to do anything else but crash. So I really appreciated this article reminding us to spend more time on energizing activities so we have the drive to pursue our interests outside of our work.

I hope you have a lovely weekend, dear readers. I hope you have the time and energy to do something fun and the time to also relax. I’ll be back next week, most likely with thoughts on starting the new quarter. Wish us luck. Allons-y!

Tuesday Fun

September 16, 2014

Happy Tuesday, dear readers! I hope your week is off to a good start. Today I just want to share a couple of interesting things to provide a bit of fun for your day.

First, clocks seem to be ubiquitous in libraries. We have so many clocks around our library and none of them seem to tell the same time. Makes for interesting coordination of shift changes at our public service points. I think if our clocks were as pretty and clever as this clock, we wouldn’t mind: clock’s hour hand rings its own hourly chime.

Also, while I can’t see this fitting into most libraries, except maybe that one with the demonstration kitchen featured in the last issue of American Libraries, an aquarium kitchen island is still fantastically cool.

Hope you have a wonderful week, full of getting things done and some fun along the way. I’ll be back soon with some more news, notes, and writing. Allons-y!

Friday Fun

September 12, 2014

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you had a lovely week and have a nice weekend planned. Instead of my usual news and notes this Friday, I just have a few photos to share. At the beginning of this week, we were down in Monterey and Carmel for a few days of vacation. It was beautiful on the coast. Of course we stopped by the public library in Carmel, but mainly enjoyed walking along the coast. So here are some photos to get you into a relaxed mood for the weekend. Summer vacation season might be over, but that doesn’t mean we have to abandon summer’s more relaxed mood. Enjoy.

tree on 17-Mile Drive

tree on 17-Mile Drive

beach boardwalk photo

beach boardwalk

beautiful Central Coast of California

beautiful Central Coast of California

Have a wonderful weekend, dear readers. I’ll be back next week with some more news and notes. Allons-y!

Tuesday Fun

September 9, 2014

Happy Tuesday, dear readers! I hope your week is going well. I have some lovely things to share with you today to help inspire your Tuesday workday. Today, let’s look at some beautiful, artistic, inspiring things. Let’s get to it.

I’ve always been fascinated by stained glass. As a kid, I thought it was absolutely magical and when I found out that my eight grade English teacher created stained glass projects, she became the coolest teacher by far in my eyes. So I was obviously taken with this Lord of the Rings stained glass lamp. It’s amazing and well-worth the click-though to the entire image gallery. Wouldn’t some literary stained glass lamps look lovely in your library? So much better than overhead, fluorescent lighting.

Also, although it sometimes seems weird to be sharing a lot about the printed word and handwriting on a blog, I couldn’t resist sharing the ink drop round-up by the Well-Appointed Desk. Such beautiful fountain pen ink colors. And who could resist the Ink Drop from the Goulet Pen Company? A monthly fountain pen ink subscription, sampling service? It’s like Birchbox for people who love fountain pens and writing!

I hope you have a wonderful rest of your week. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Play and Work

September 5, 2014

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has gone well and you have a relaxing weekend planned. I’m looking forward to relaxing this weekend after spending last week moving and unpacking in our new home. It is hard to believe we are already through the first week of September. It is inching closer to the start of the quarter here on campus and I feel the usual combination of excitement and panic at the start of another academic year. It seems appropriate at the close of the summer (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere) to talk a bit about play and work as it seems like the being of another school year the balance seems to flip back to work as opposed to play. So let’s discuss a bit.

The idea for this post came courtesy of this post at tiny buddha: benefits of bringing more play into your work. I enjoyed reading about how play became infused into the work day and professionalism and productivity didn’t suffer. And, happiness increased. That is just great and it is always nice to have these kind of stories because I think they help to persuade management and administration that having fun and working don’t have to be polar opposite forces, opposing each other. And I think that is something that more of us need to keep in mind, whether we work in a library, archives, or wherever.

My first publication as a librarian was titled, “Seriously, play!” so obviously this concept of integrating work and play is near and dear to my heart. (It can still be read here). What I found interesting then, and still interesting now, is that while some people acknowledge the importance of play in learning and in work, others don’t and/or won’t see that play is important to work. While I don’t think we can change everyone’s mind to seeing the value of play in work, I would suggest that we can use this knowledge to our own advantage as we try to increase engagement and happiness at work.

Being open to play at work doesn’t mean we are going to be having water balloon fights in the stacks (that would be horrible for the books), but that we can be open to trying new things and being a bit silly at times. And that makes for a more comfortable environment and closer teams so that when we do have to tackle tough deadlines and projects, we actually have the reserves and desire to do so.

I think being able to see and experience play and work as supporting each other instead of battling each other is another way to combat the ongoing fight of creating a balanced life. If we aren’t enjoying our work and being engaged at work, I don’t see how we can ever have a balanced or fulfilling life. Then each workday is just a slog and that is no way to live. Finding moments to test out new things, to try new things without judgement and to support each other in these goals is what makes my workdays better. Also, let’s face it, it is almost impossible not to smile when someone else is smiling and not to catch some excitement or happiness when someone else is obviously enjoying their playful work and invites you to join in.

As an example, I approach every teaching experience as one part stand-up comedy routine, one part experiment, and one part serious academic. This balance works for me and has been working for my students for the last six years. Humor is a great way to break tension, especially when students are learning difficult concepts and struggling, as they should as they grow as learners. A sense of experimentation is necessary as not every group, student, or class learns the same or responds to the same material or delivery or exercise or whatever. And being a serious academic is necessary to lead the class, to facilitate learning, to guide the students, and to make sure that respect goes both ways in creating a positive, supportive space. I’m passionate about my teaching, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have fun with it. If anything, if I stopped having fun and having a playful attitude around it, I think I’d probably be the most boring, horrible teacher for my students, if not just a bad model for what it is like to be a professional or academic.

So, I just wanted to say that I think we can all infuse a little more play with our work and gain a lot for our working lives from our play. So remember to enjoy. Life is too short to have people tell you that you need to be serious all the time or that play and work go together like oil and water. It’s all a process, this life and work, so make it a fun one.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend full of play. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

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