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Books and Letter Writing

February 6, 2015

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has gone well and you have a lovely weekend planned. I just wanted to share a few pieces of news with you before we all head out of the office and into the glorious weekend. I rather hope that it is a wet weekend here as we’ve had no rain the past month and are still uncomfortably in a drought, but enough of that…to the books!

It never ceases to make me happy when I see a positive article about books in a magazine that is not dedicated to librarians. So I was rather happy to see this article, Paper Books Will Never Die, on Gizmodo. I love paper books, our overflowing bookcases at home attest to that, and am glad to see someone else writing about their love of the printed word, too.

Also in the realm of all things on paper and in print, this month is National Letter Writing Month! Are you excited? I certainly am and look forward to the excuse to send out letters and cards to family and friends for the rest of the month. Not that I need much excuse. I love writing and receiving cards. A dear friend and I have had a letter correspondence for almost 7 years since we live on opposite coasts and seeing her letters in my mailbox always makes me smile. Also, wonderful excuse to buy more stationery.

Not about printed books, but about books nonetheless, is this article, Google’s Slow Fade With Librarians. Wonderful read from Jessamyn West. Librarians always remember.

And, while not something related to books and letter writing, I had to share the Top 10 Lifehacker Posts of All Time. Because, really, who doesn’t want to read some good life hacking tips? Gives you more time for reading!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend, dear readers. Remember to make time to read, no matter what format you choose, and time too send someone a note to let them know you care. I’ll be back soon. Allons-y!

Designing in the New Year

January 16, 2015

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you had a lovely week and are looking forward to an even better weekend. I managed to get a cold, but am recovering and looking forward to a relaxing and rewarding weekend. But before we get there, I want to share some ideas and resources for designing in this new year. “Designing in the New Year” could mean so many things: interior design in our libraries and homes, designing more effective time management in our unending work-life balance struggles, website design as we throw out the old and bring on the new, and so on. Today, I want to talk a bit about graphic design and libraries and share some fun resources I’ve come across.

To get you in the mood for a bit about graphic design and libraries, I highly recommend looking through 50 best images on books, reading, and libraries. These are lovely pieces of design and quite wonderful. They should make you smile and everyone could use a smile on a Friday. I’m totally with the reader: “Yeah, so what if I rather read than go to a bar? Deal with it.” That is totally me. Also, these sayings and designs make me want to design something new for my library, too!

I may be on a design kick this year as my research time finally opened up (or so I thought) so I would have time to look into librarians and graphic design. Many other research projects have also come up this year, already, but I’m not giving up on my design research because librarians design all the time and I’m rather interested in it all. I mean, look around any library and you can see dozens of handouts, bookmarks, flyers, event posters, newsletters, and webpages. There are so many examples of graphic design in libraries and very often librarians, who have a dozen other duties to do, turn into de facto graphic designers for their libraries. So if we are designing stuff for our libraries, which can be both a joy and a burden, let’s at least design some nifty things.

So this year, expect some more posts about design in libraries, specifically graphic design, on this blog as I work through my research and some fun examples, too. For now though I just want to share some fun icon sets. Because, really, it’s time to step away from the clip art, put down the Comic Sans, and get into the big leagues with our designs. So go check out these two icon sets available via Smashing Magazine: free Dashel Icon set and free tourism and travel icon set. So fun! Doesn’t it just make you want to create something?

I’ll be back next week with some more news and notes. Oh, and if anyone is coming to Online Northwest in February–and I do hope you do– I’ll be there and presenting on graphic design. I’m in the first session, so stop on by my talk and say hi. Allons-y!

A Turtle and a Reference Desk

January 15, 2015

Happy Thursday, dear readers! Just a short post today on one of the weirdest and best experiences I’ve had at the reference desk so far in my time as a librarian. Yesterday afternoon I was on the desk and had a student come over and tell me that there was a turtle walking by the windows in our first floor study area. My reaction was, “Really? A turtle?” And she said yes so what’s a reference librarian to do, but leap into action by getting a box and going turtle wrangling.

Luckily, it was an adorable little one who easily fit into the box. (And we decided was more of a tortoise than a turtle.)

Photo of Turtle in the Library

Turtle in the Library

But what to do now that we had the little one? No one answered in the affirmative when I asked students who were studying close by where we found the turtle so it was off to my colleagues in Access Services who usually have the answer to everything. Our Access Services Manager was up for making, as a colleagues wrote, “Best.Announcement.Ever.” over our PA system and asking if anyone had lost a pet turtle to come to the desk and describe the turtle so we could return him.

Happy ending to the story, the owner rushed over after hearing the announcement and the turtle found his way home, leaving us all to wonder, why did she have a turtle in the library in the first place?

Just another day at the reference desk. Allons-y!

Surveys and Civility

January 9, 2015

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had a good first full week of 2015. I have to say it has been hard to get back to work after a lovely holiday break, especially when it feels like going from zero to sixty without any warm-up. Today I just want to talk a bit about survey research and civility as it has been on my mind as I’ve been talking with friends and doing research. So let’s get to it.

As I’m in a faculty librarian role, I’m expected to do research. Luckily, I quite like research and sharing research results with others so I’m not here to complain about doing research, far from it. Most of my research, too, has not involved surveys, but instead interviews and archival research. However, sometimes, like many researchers, I need to use a survey to gather data for my research or to recruit potential interviewees. And that means, often, sending out a call on a listserv (or many listservs, depending) hoping that people will, out of the goodness of the hearts, take the time to complete a survey. And, happily, many often do, for which I’m grateful and I try to return the favor by completing surveys when they come over listservs and I can write to whatever topic/questions the researcher is studying with the survey. By and large, I’ve had good luck with my surveys, getting useful responses and finding many people to interview for various projects, but it has also raised a couple of questions for me.

Two questions: 1. Why does anyone feel the need to go through a survey and tell a researcher their questions are stupid? and 2. Why complete the survey if you feel that way or feel you have nothing to contribute?

I’m at a loss for the motives behind those two behaviors. All the participation calls for surveys I’ve seen on the listservs clearly state what the survey is about and who the researcher is hoping will complete the survey. No one is forcing anyone to complete the survey. Also, it is just plain rude to be nasty on someone’s survey, even if you feel the questions could have been worded better or the data collected differently. I’ve been told before that my questions are horrible and should be multiple choice, etc.. Clearly those people stating that never considered that multiple choice questions wouldn’t answer my research questions or would bias the responses or that you can only run statistical tests on data collected in specific manners to be valid.

So the need to be petty and mean on an anonymous survey absolutely baffles me.

Happily though, those encounters are few and far between and the majority of people are incredibly sweet and kind in sharing their stories, experiences, and knowledge with us researchers. And I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to anyone who has ever completed a survey I’ve sent over a listserv and/or agreed to be interviewed. You are the reason that we are able to continue adding to the research base of our profession and the reason that I continue to put my work out into the wilds of the internet and professional literature, even though I sometimes get caught off guard when reading through responses.

So all I’m really saying is try to be helpful and kind to researchers when you are taking a survey. And, if the survey doesn’t apply to you–or offends your idea of proper survey design–don’t respond. Civility is something we could all use more of in this world and something we all appreciate.

I hope you’ve had a wonderful start to your new year and I’ll be back next week with some more news. Allons-y!

Happy New Year!

January 2, 2015

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you had a lovely end to 2014 and a lovely start to 2015. Another year is here, fresh and ready for all our hopes and dreams. I’m hoping for a wonderful 2015 and working towards making it so. Here at The Waki Librarian, I’ll still be posting, though a little less frequently, as I work on some other projects and wanted to start of with some fun links for the new year.

I love book lists. They are great for finding new authors and books to read. I thought this interactive word cloud of the novels everyone should read was fun. I’ve read many of the books on the list and think I’ll need to check out some more. I’m planning on actually recording the books I read this year as I think it will be interesting to see what I’ve read when the year is through. I expect it will be an odd mix of fun reading, work reading, and random stuff I pick up at our local indie bookstore or on the new bookshelf at the library.

Also, I love the post on Stephen Abram’s blog on 2015 reading challenge. There are a number of fun lists of reading challenges for the new year to get you and your patrons inspired to read.

Finally, what would this post be if I didn’t share Neil Gaiman’s lovely post, New Year Wishes and Gifts? A bit duller and less joyful, I think. Go read what a master of writing has had to say over the last 15 years for new year wishes. Just lovely.

I know I said the blog would only be on hiatus for November, but December really went by so quickly, I didn’t have a chance to stop and post. So this year, I’m planning on writing a blog post a week, or so, on The Waki Librarian. Still sharing news and notes from the library world as well as cool tools and notes for technology and possibly some other fun stuff thrown in. I hope you have a wonderful day and weekend, that your 2015 is glorious and you have people around that you are happy to be with on this new year’s journey. I’ll be back soon. Allons-y!

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!

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