On Educating Your Peers, Part 1

Jim Peterson is a 39 year old Technology Coordinator for the Goodnight Memorial Library, a very small library with a staff of 10, including the custodian! You can follow him on twitter, read his blog or check him out on Facebook.

Also please note that this submission will be one of two parts to be posted over two days.

First off, let me start by saying that I am no public speaking trainer. I’m not a motivational speaker, at least not in my mind. I am a geek; defined as:

geek [giːk] n Slang

1. a boring and unattractive social misfit

2. a person who is preoccupied with or very knowledgeable about computing

3. a degenerate

tr.v. geeked, geek·ing, geeks

To excite emotionally: I’m geeked about that new video game.

[probably variant of Scottish geck fool, from Middle Low German geck]

So I guess that makes me a foolish, boring, unattractive, social misfit degenerate who is very knowledgeable about computing. But my inner geek cries out in pain, “But there is so much more to me than you see!”

I am also a librarian by way of luck. I didn’t go to library school. I was let go from my previous job as a tech support person at a major computer manufacturer. I was just totally lucky that my local library had need for a Technical Services Librarian. I hadn’t been inside a public library in 10 years and knew nothing about how they worked. That was a little over 2 years ago. So why am I doing presentations?

The answer is fairly simple. I care. The state of Kentucky is full of small towns, in which there are small, tight-budgeted public libraries – libraries that can’t afford their own tech guy. In this market so many citizens are underserved by big corporations, such as phone and cable companies, big-box stores, etc. These folks turn to their libraries for help with online job searches, filing for unemployment, and keeping up with friends and family through services like Facebook. I have the knowledge to make things work on the computer and networking side and pass on my knowledge to those who listen. If this sounds like you, then please read on!

As my example, I’ll be using one of my presentations available on Slideshare. It is a presentation I did for the KY Department of Libraries & Archives‘ (KDLA) Bookmobile & Outreach Services conference last September.

Getting Started

To do a presentation, you will first need to receive a CFP from a conference, symposium or training session. A CFP is a Call For Proposal, Papers, Participation, whatever P-word works, in which you submit a basic outline of what you intend to discuss. For example:

Now click on the screenshot above and you will be taken to the full CFP page. This page includes the proposal guidelines, some suggested topics, what types of presentations are offered and submission requirements. At larger conferences that draw an international audience like LinuxCon, you may also be given guidance as to preferred languages.

Choosing a topic

Once you have chosen a conference, you should have an idea on what topic you will speak about. For example, there are challenges associated with creating a reliable mobile Internet connection in a rural library. So I knew I had something to offer the KDLA Bookmobile and Outreach folks since I had just recently installed mobile broadband on our bookmobile.

I can’t overemphasize enough the importance of experience when it comes to choosing a topic. If you have experience in your topic, you will have a calmness and confidence that translates directly to your presentation. Your body language will display comfort with the topic and the audience will be able to recognize you as an expert. And by volunteering your time as a speaker/presenter at a conference workshop, you will be considered an ‘expert’ on your topic unless you prove yourself wrong!

As an example, I have been playing with computers in one way or another since around 1981, when PCs were starting to become affordable enough for the home market. I have built and broken, fixed and sold, and have an IT degree. But that degree means little if there is no experience to back it up. After all it is just a piece of paper that says you know how to pass tests, and that’s how many event coordinators look at them.

Creating the presentation

Personally, I create on the fly and tweak it into shape as I go. I’m not one of those who can sit down, write an outline and then fill in the blanks. So while my style of doing things may differ from yours, remember that there is no one correct way of doing things! For example, with the Bookmobile presentation, here is a link to my Slideshare page where you can see this PowerPoint deck in its entirety. The first page gives a rough outline of the major points to be made:

When you’re creating a PowerPoint, think about who you will be talking to and the message you want to get across. I chose this slide background because I was going to be telling these folks how to bring the World Wide Web to their patrons, so a global theme seemed subtle and appropriate.

Part 2 of On Educating Your Peers will be posted tomorrow. It will include best practices for slides, how to evaluate your performance and more! Stay tuned!

Do you have your own idea for the Young Librarian Series? Shoot an email to: younglibrarianseries@gmail.com See you tomorrow!

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Job of a Lifetime

Erin Dorney is a 25 year old outreach librarian working at Millersville University of Pennsylvania. You can follow her on twitter, read her blog or send her an email to:  libraryscenester[at sign]gmail[dot]com.

Hello fellow young, ever-inspirational, forward-thinking librarians. I am requesting your assistance.

For the past year I have been the editor of the Job of a Lifetime column in College & Research Libraries News. Each column consists of an interview and accompanying podcast with a librarian who has a unique job that they love. So far, I’ve done an interview with Brian Mathews on his position as User Experience Librarian at Georgia Tech and an interview with a trio of Emerging Technologies Librarians at Towson University.

I am looking for more librarians to interview, and that’s where you all come in. I would love to feature some young librarians who truly love their jobs. The only requirements:

*You work in an academic library environment
*You love your job
*There is something unique about your position (how it was created, your responsibilities, etc)

As young librarians, you may not have been in your position for long. I have only been in my first professional library position since I graduated in the spring of ’08. We might be too inexperienced to say whether this is literally our “job of a lifetime” but just because we haven’t been here long doesn’t mean that we can’t love what we do. It’s a great opportunity to share your passion and let people know about the new and unique positions young librarians are contributing to. Please consider contacting me and spreading the news about this opportunity.

If you want to know more about me, feel free to check out my blog where I cover various topics including conferences, ALA, emerging leaders, LIS students, user experience, next-gen librarianship, marketing and outreach. Some of the most popular posts that may be of interest include So, you’re thinking about becoming a librarian?, Library Day in the Life, Ohio & King Library, and 5 Surprises from first year as an MLIS.

I hope to hear from you soon! Keep on making me proud to be a librarian.

– Erin

Interested in submitting something to the Young Librarian Series? Check out the submissions page or send an email at: younglibrarianseries@gmail.com. See you next week!

A Manifesto

Hello everyone! Leah here and I figured it’s my turn to write something on the Young Librarian Series. Although it’s a cliché interview question, I have always found people’s paths to librarianship to be telling. So I thought I would share mine, encompassed in what I’d like to think is a tiny bit of my manifesto of why I am a librarian. In case you don’t already know, I am a 27 year old librarian at the Pritzker Legal Research Center at the Northwestern University School of Law. You can follow me on twitter: @leahlibrarian. Enjoy.

My mother was not a librarian, and although she taught me to love books, she is not the reason I decided on this career.  In fact, it was something that today I find rather amusing considering my sincere devotion to technology and new media.  No, my career as a librarian began with a stamp.  It was the old fashioned stamp at the circulation desk, the one with the dials that changed to a specific date and made a little mechanical thump when applied to the card in the back of my book.  While I cannot explain my fascination with this stamp, I can tell you that I longed for a position where someday I too would be the bearer of such awesome responsibility.  I will never forget when the Parchment Community Library switched to a barcode and computer system.  Gone were the days of the stamp and now began a time of blips and pings with the scanning of ugly barcodes that had disgracefully been placed on my Amelia Bedelia books.  The idea of becoming a librarian vanished from my thoughts for many years.

While slogging away at my English degree in college, I worked as a part-time server at a slow food café.  My shifts were mostly lunches, the kind that required lots of smiling and customer service, two important work skills that I came to realize I rather enjoyed.  Coincidentally this café happened to be the favorite lunch spot for many librarians from the Kalamazoo Public Library.  Being the chatty person that I am, I spoke with them about feeling lost in a sea of academia and my conviction that the profession of English Professor was not looking so hot these days.  I found a great deal of encouragement and camaraderie from these men and women.  They encouraged me to enter the library profession and helped me secure an internship at the Kalamazoo Law Library.  They brought me to luncheons and meet-ups, introduced me to many librarians along the way, and showed me that there was a profession that combined my English degree and my love for providing great service.  This mentoring and encouraging attitude inspires me to this day.

Ducking my head and following the crowd doesn’t sit well with me.  I have been told this makes for a natural leader but my mother would say she raised me to follow my heart.  While she may not be the reason for my librarian career directly, she has always encouraged me to speak my mind and stand up for what I believe is true and right.  I am not ashamed in my belief that some libraries are struggling to make progress and preserve their rightful place in this changing environment.  When I hear news about libraries closing off access to social networking sites or read opinion pieces in local papers written by information professionals about the fall of the proper library to the sin of technology, it makes me that much more determined to change people’s minds.

I believe this is a new era for libraries.  That we will only grow stronger as new librarians come into the field and as progressive, established librarians guide us into a positive frame of mind for assisting the generations to come with their informational needs. I have hope.

Interested in submitting something to the Young Librarian Series? Check out the submissions page or send an email at: younglibrarianseries@gmail.com. See you next week!


Steve Thomas is a 36 year old assistant branch manager at a public library in Georgia. He has worked in libraries for almost ten years and lives outside Atlanta with his wife, daughter, and two cats. You can follow him on Twitter @steve_librarian or contact him at steve[dot]librarian[at]gmail[dot]com. He likes cookies.

I’m a librarian because my wife told me to.

Now, this is not the way my career started. In fact, my love of books had originally led me to a career in the bookstore business, where I was able to satiate some of my OCD-tendencies (don’t all librarians have a touch of OCD?) with shelving, straightening and organizing materials. The organization system was no Dewey and certainly no LC, but it was a start. I also got to interact with the general public, connecting them with the information and goods for which they were searching. A few years into my bookstore career path, I met my wife while we were working at the same store in Florida (according to her, you can find anything in a bookstore… even a husband), and while this “acquisition” filled one void in my life, my career felt uninspired, despite the positive aspects of the work. I moved up to supervisory positions but without any real drive. Something was missing.

One day, after we’d moved to Atlanta, my wife forwarded me an email from her graduate school about an opening at the library on campus. I applied and got the job. I loved working in the library, and it felt like I was heading in the right direction in my career. I completed library school while continuing to work at the library full-time. Unlike in the bookstore, I felt pride in my progress from a position in the stacks to a position that allowed me to work in both the reference and serials acquisitions departments. I got to work hands-on with information in a more detailed way, both in depth and organizationally. My community was a wealth of students, faculty, and staff, and I relished serving them one-on-one at the reference desk and behind the scenes in Acquisitions. The reference work in particular was instructional – the whole “teach them to fish” analogy – rather than simply gathering and passing on information to a customer in need.

However, once the time came to find a professional position, I hit that same wall many library school graduates do: there weren’t nearly as many jobs as they “promised” when I was in school. This is especially an issue in academic libraries, where I was determined to work. My wife insisted I should look into public libraries, but I resisted. Why was I so determined to remain in academic libraries? Because I loved the job I had so much that I wanted to work at an institution like that forever. So instead of waiting to find the right library job for me, I took a job that, in retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have. It was an attractive job at an up-and-coming private college with grand promises of the future. After 18 months in the position, the administration and I could not come to agreement on how to serve the student population, and I lost my job.

At this point, I found myself adrift, wondering if I’d made the right career choice. I took a day to let myself wallow in self-pity then picked myself up, dusted myself off, and moved headlong back into the job-seeking business. I soon found myself applying for any job that I seemed vaguely qualified for: archiving video footage for television stations, reference work at community colleges, cataloging at universities far away from home, and what seemed oddest to me at the time, working at the local public library. Soon after, I scheduled an interview at the public library, and at some point before my interview, it hit me. The public library was the perfect intersection for my interests, allowing me to take the things I loved from bookstores and combine them with the things I loved from academic libraries. I could have that one-on-one time with the general public, helping people who don’t necessarily know how to find what they want and need and combine it with the more in-depth information available in the library’s collections. I could feel like I was contributing to my community while at the same time instructing patrons on how to find further information on their own.

I got the job and am the happiest I’ve been as an employee since I got to take home free pizzas while working at Pizza Hut.

Sometimes it pays to listen to your wife. (She says I should say “always”.)

Interested in submitting something to the Young Librarian Series? Check out the submissions page or send us an email at: younglibrarianseries@gmail.com. See you next week!

Letting Go

Laura Wimberley is a 30 year old reference librarian at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon.  You can read her blog at Libri & Libertas or follow her on Twitter.

I’m beginning to wonder if we librarians, as a profession, spend too much time worrying how people perceive us.

Yes, I know that the shhhhing bunhead image keeps people away, but the sexy librarian means we’re not taken seriously, yadda yadda yadda. But there were two pop culture moments last week that made me think we might be blowing this out of proportion.

September isn’t just the start of the school year. It’s also (just as importantly for some people) the start of a new television season. And the first episodes of two different shows highlighted how two different comparable professions react to mainstream media depictions of themselves.

First, the season premiere of How I Met Your Mother shows our protagonist Ted Mosby on his first day as an adjunct professor. (They never use the word adjunct or discuss the working conditions, but that’s another post.) Ted spends most of the episode anxious about how to present himself to the class, as an authoritarian or cool guy, and winds up rapidly and awkwardly alternating between the two. (“I’m Professor Mosby. Call me Ted. Professor Mosby. T-Dogg. DON’T call me T-Dogg.”) It’s the same set-up as an episode on the sixth season of Friends where Ross is so nervous on his first day of adjuncting that he fakes an English accent.

These issues of self-presentation and authority in the classroom are important, live concerns for faculty, and are often discussed in the faculty blogosphere, but this show has not, and, I confidently predict, will not make a dent. (In fact, the only mention I could find of the show on a faculty blog or website was on the CV of a theater professor who actually appeared on it.)

Why not? Public university and community college faculty are, like librarians, also dependent on public perception (although, as states slash their support, increasingly less so.)

I think there are a few reasons. One, faculty won’t admit to watching sitcoms (Buffy or Big Love, maybe, but not something this truly mainstream). We, on the other hand, are responsible for disseminating all media, so it’s less detrimental to our credibility to notice schlock. Two, faculty don’t see themselves as a larger collective – they see themselves as historians, or mathematicians, or anthropologists first, and professors en masse second; librarians see ourselves as librarians first and as academic, public, special, or school librarians second. This minimizes the number of portrayals a professor will identify with and bother to critique, versus the number a librarian might. Finally, though – and here’s the part we should consider emulating – I think faculty let their work speak for itself. If you have conviction that your teaching and research make a difference, it doesn’t much matter if people think you’re absent-minded or effete or stodgy or any of the other professor stereotypes. When people attack the work itself, then yes, faculty will stand their ground. But the pop culture caricatures? Who cares?

Case in point – contrast How I Met Your Mother with the series premier of Community, a new show set at a community college. Community doesn’t depict any librarians (yet), but nearly the whole episode takes place inside a library. It’s an homage to The Breakfast Club (and a very funny one at that), but in that movie, the kids were locked in the library as punishment. Here, a diverse group of adults chooses to come to the library to study and accomplish their goals.

Check out the clip “Sharks, Pencils, and Ben Affleck.”

Who wouldn’t want that happening in their library?

This is a great depiction of library as place. And that, in the end, is what matters – what people think of the library as an experience. How they think of librarians in general is something we can let go.

Interested in submitting something to the Young Librarian Series? Check out the submissions page or send us an email at: younglibrarianseries@gmail.com. See you next week!