Wrapping up 2013

Somehow, there are less than two weeks left in the year.

This has crept up on me.

It’s been a big year – I’ve moved, started school, gotten lots of experience at lots of jobs, and started to feel at home somewhere that wasn’t my parents house (this was probably helped along by the fact that my parents moved, too). I’ve broken my first bone, narrowly avoided my first stitches, and continued my love affair/addiction to coffee. I started watching Doctor Who (for shame on waiting so long!), playing video games (Bioware can hide nothing from me now), and learned to build a website. I’ve dreamed about finding a way to move back to Europe, living a normal schedule, and getting a job that pays all the bills.

So now I’m wondering about next year.

I want to finish school, for starters. Though there’s some uncertainty about my financial aid situation for summer, I’ll definitely wrap it up by this fall. The next semester has a lot of great things in store for me, academically. I’m excited to be a guest student in a Syracuse University course called Innovation in Public Libraries. The Fayetteville Fab Lab was a product of this class,  and that kind of thinking is magical. I want to have a Harry Potter moment with that, where I realize that I can do that magic too.

I’m waiting on some light to be shed on a lot of divergent paths, too. I need to decide about interning this summer vs. taking classes, and who and where I would want to intern. I want to GO TO ALL THE CONFERENCES (I love conferences. Weirdly, I love volunteering at conferences. Makes me feel useful.). Sadly, this contrasts with my other goal to PAY ALL THE BILLS. Adulting isn’t for wimps.

I have smaller, simpler goals too: I want to start cooking dinner again, get back into baking, remember how to crochet and cross stitch. I want to write stories like I haven’t since I finished undergrad, and maintain the great friendships I’ve made with a little more gusto. I want to read whole books again, rather than just skimming them for papers. I want to beat DragonAge on something other than easy level.

So, 2014 is a year with a lot on its plate already, and it hasn’t even started yet. Old man 2013 has been busy writing a will, I guess, and 2014 is inheriting a lot. Maybe more than it can handle.

I think it can live up to the challenge.

Long Days and Learning Curves

Most days I’m a lot like my junior high self: when someone asks me how work was and what I did, I shrug and respond, “It was ok, didn’t do much.” This is obviously untrue, but it just seems easier than trying to explain everything. Most days, where do I even start?

Some days, though, something leaps out. There was the day that I got a shy kid to grin for an hour after I helped him search for Thomas the Tank Engine books – and then he pulled a chair up next to mine so we could find more things. There was the time that my very first reference question was explaining to a very nice, very well meaning elderly gentleman that the book in his hand was not “The Secret Garden” (as in the one by Frances Hodgson Burnett) but “My Secret Garden” by Nancy Friday. There was the time that a student ninja rolled across the front of the security post at the academic library I work at to cheer me up by pretending to sneak into the library (while madly waving his ID around for me to see).

There are lots of those really great times. The reasons why I want to do my job.

Then there are the reasons that I remember why I need to do my jobs. They’re the times where I can’t seem to get anything right, or at least where everything seems to be going wrong. They’re the longest days. They are upsetting, perhaps even a little scary. Perhaps they peel away the image I’ve gotten of a community I work in but am not from. And I remember why I want so badly for the library to be a safe, welcoming place for people to learn.

These thoughts are far loftier than what I was thinking as cleaned up blood off the library bathroom floor. Far more focused than writing up my incident report including the words “firearm” “illicit drugs” and “arrests.” And certainly more coherent than when I began to shake several hours later, wondering what was wrong with me as I struggled to pull my thoughts together.

Obviously, my Wednesday this week wasn’t normal, but I learned some things. I was reminded that my assumptions about life weren’t necessarily valid for everyone else’s life. The safety I felt fairly certain of even in a rough neighborhood couldn’t be extended to everyone. That the library had to actually assert itself as a haven to be respected, rather than just expect people to know it. I learned that I can make it through very stressful situations and get things done. That I have really great recall of things said to me when I’m stressed. That going into shock after certain experiences isn’t weakness.

That I never for a second questioned what I was doing there that day, or whether I would come back. I just would.

When it rains…

One thing about working for a small, understaffed library is that I get a lot of cool opportunities to test out my skills and ideas about librarianship while on the job. I’ve been teaching computer classes along with the interim programming coordinator for the past few weeks, with the idea to take them over come the end of October. That’s going to be two classes a week to start. I’m hoping to pull another intern in with me, and then work with her to design some career-oriented computer classes – things like how to search for jobs online, how to fill in an online job application, making sure your email is up to date so you receive things, etc. All these things that just come naturally to me (or rather, that I had the blessing of being given the freedom to learn when I was younger) need to be broken down into pieces that can be taught. I’ll be working on that curriculum soon.

I’ve been continuing my work on the CoH Intern’s Blog as well, though that’s little more than a glorified job board itself until we get the full website up and running. Because I’m the only one in the library who has worked with WordPress before, I’m being given the task of taking the new site from skeleton to live. This has to happen soon (our old one… leaves something to be desired), but I’m having trouble getting a hold of the admin credentials for the site. Apparently their previous web developer just… stopped. I’m not sure of the story behind that.

This week’s big things were the government shutdown and the ACA. Libraries everywhere issued a collective shout of excitement at renewed relevance and a simultaneous groan at the strain on what are often already maxed-out staffs. At Homestead, I used this week to identify the resources available in our area for those experiencing food emergencies. The demographics in that area led me to think it might be helpful, and at the least I hope it is a less intrusive way of communicating with people who might not otherwise use food banks.

As for the ACA… that’s next week.

Let’s talk about Tumblr

Last week, I wanted to show the programming director at the library I’m interning at some ideas that I’d posted to my tumblr. I like to archive cool ideas, snippets, and more informal thoughts on tumblr, and the quick like/reblog format makes it easy for the community of Tumblarians (yes, that’s a thing) is relatively active in sharing and interacting with each other.

And I couldn’t get to any of it on my work computer.

It was explained to me that due to some of the questionable content on tumblr, the network provider had decided to block the entire site. All tumblrs, no matter how useful, were inaccessible to the library. I was a bit taken aback. Especially since Yahoo! bought tumblr and essentially blacklisted all of the “Adult” sites, tumblr is increasingly dominated by TV gifs, fandoms, and teen rants. And of course tumblarians.

Over at “The Digital Shift,” they’ve figured out the tumblr is the place to be, too, especially for teens:

In the past year, though, it became clear that my teens were no longer on Facebook—or if they were, they weren’t using it to connect with the library. During that time, I searched for ways to invigorate the teen section of our library’s website—to post more content daily and engage more readers. I sought a streamlined, visually exciting site. But the traditional blogging options were hampered by clunky interfaces and an outdated look; I knew that the posts weren’t reaching many patrons, let alone teens.

Enter Tumblr.

Tumblr is known, too, for its fandom bases – Supernatural, Doctor Who, Sherlock, Harry Potter, anime, and (!) books. This makes tumblr even more appealing from a library marketing perspective. Aren’t we trying to get people to embrace their geek? Running an entire ad campaign on “Geek the Library” seems to indicate so. Tumblr is a group of geeks waiting to be shown how the library can fit into their passions.

Want to reach teens? Better yet, want to engage an already-active group of people with easy-to-use, attention-grabbing posts? Use tumblr. (Start with checking out the “tumblarians” tag and explore from there.)

Just make sure it’s not blocked at your library.


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Starring Harry and Katniss as The Millenials – feat. Guns and the Internet

We’ve been talking a lot about generations around school and my libraries lately. In my course on library services for an aging population, we’ve been focusing on Baby Boomers, the Silent Generation, and the GI Generation, for obvious reasons. In my adult services class, the Boomers come up again, pig in the generational python that they are, as well as Gen Xers.

But we talk about the Millennials too. We talk about the Millennials A LOT. Information about Millennials abounds – it seems a new study about how we do things, think about things, use technology, interact with authority, go places and own things is published every day. To paraphrase and adapt what Virginia Woolf said about women in her essay “A Room of One’s Own” – “Have you any notion how many books are written about [Millennials] in the course of one year? Have you any notion how many are written by [older generations]? Are you aware that you are, perhaps, the most discussed animal in the universe?”

Even MTV is in on the studying. MTV, that product of Gen Xers that taught us that Big Brother was a game show rather than a McCarthyism trait, is trying to figure out how to nail down its new market – the youngest Millennials. In their study, they use pop culture to back up their findings. I love this. As an older Millennial, I can understand what they mean through their comparisons to Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen, and the breakdown of why we’re different and what that means for our psychology is actually pretty impressive.

For example, we older Millennials, the “Harry Potters”, were told we were “special” all the time when I was a kid – unique, just like everyone else. Whatever challenges we faced, we would come through it all right. We had endless, magical possibilities and whole worlds opened up to us with the right information. Economic growth seemed endless, college offered real possibility for advancement, and the Internet was going to fix all the world’s problems.

We learned better.

Younger Millennials, the “Katniss Everdeens”, were raised in a very different world. In fact, many people don’t consider this group to be Millennials at all – instead they’re Gen Z. They straddle the Millennial optimism and the rather brusque reality of coming of age in a deep recession and time of war. They are survivalists, and understand technology as a part of the world, rather than an addition to it. There is no magic wand – there is economic struggle, particularly for young people. College is a debt with no guaranteed outcome. There is the continued expanse of Big Brother, but now via social media as well.

One of my professors explained that for those of us whose formative years came after 9/11, the world was formed by guns and the Internet.

What a combination.

See also:

Meet The Millennials – Harry and Katniss | 21st Century Library Blog.

Go Lightly: Moving Adventures

There are few sites on the internet that seem to get me as much, and as often, as xkcd.

As I continue to engage in late-night marathon packing sessions in preparation for my move this week, I contacted the cable company to hook everything up. Which brings up this comic.

Because the current tenants clearly don’t understand this need, and so have refused to schedule a disconnection date so that I can have internet this weekend. No, instead I have to go to the company and prove I live there via lease, but only after I move in. And since I move in just before the weekend. . . I’m not sure I can handle this.

Late to the Rowling/Galbraith Party

J.K. Rowling and The Cuckoo's Calling

Yes, I know. You’ve read this 1000 times already since it happened last week. And I’m sorry that I’m adding to the stack.

Sorry, not sorry, actually, because it was one of the professors at my school that helped. Duquesne University’s Dr. Juola has been working on software to help identify works by the same author. It took less than half an hour for the system to process The Cuckoo’s Calling and list J.K. Rowling as the most likely author. When asked by journalist Cal Flyn of the Sunday Times to look at the text, Juola went to work. And look at the ruckus it’s caused.

While not the only thing that went into determining authorship, it’s still one of the most publicized. Flyn did great journalism and provided a few other authors to be tested to provide more certainty (P.D. James and Ruth Rendell, among others). And then of course the confirmation leaked by Rowling’s legal team – oops.

But I just wanted to give props where it’s due. Well, done Dr. Juola and team!

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