On Awards and Statistics and (Ir)Relevancy

(N.B. – I’m going to get back to the gender and librarians series after the holiday weekend.  Scholarly research and Bailey’s Irish Cream do not mix.  Youth Services libs, I still welcome your comments!) 

Today is one of those days when statistics and awards and relevancy (or rather, questions of same) collide.

First, U.S. News and World Report released their 2013 library school rankings.  You can read the full list here. I am proud to see my alma mater (Pratt Institute) ranked as #31, and I believe that they were ranked #11 for archival studies.

Second, Library Journal started the phase out of their 2013 Movers and Shakers.  For those not familiar with Movers and Shakers (M&S), it’s a peer nominated award, honoring 50 librarians for the innovative work that they do.  Every year, I recognize more and more names on the list, and that’s a good thing.  It’s nice to see hard work rewarded and I’m proud of all my friends that receive the honor.

Inevitably, with the release of both these metrics, what some may term “haters” come out of the woodwork. People who believe they deserve the same award because they do many of the same things, and will take any opportunity to attack those that do get it, questioning credentials, etc. People who may believe that their school is crap because it’s not ranked.

The bottom line is:  These are just metrics.  One small sample of a larger picture. Lies, damned lies and statistics, as Mark Twain would say.

You can mistake some of my burnout, particularly on M&S, with what happened to a good friend, Val Forrestal.  Val was nominated for the award, went through the interview and photoshoot process required for a profile, and then got told by LJ, “whoops!  We’re going to have to take the whole thing back!”  (You can read Val’s full experience here.) Val handled things with grace and dignity that can and should be an example to all.  And some of that burnout is jealousy and insecurity on my part as well – why wasn’t I part of the club this year when I do so much in RUSA, so much presenting, etc.?  Is my degree from Pratt less relevant to an employer or a proposal committee than a degree from Rutgers or one of the higher ranked schools?*  Do I need to do more? Is 2,000+ Twitter followers a blog and name recognition at every conference I go to still not enough to be seen as a so-called rockstar?    How much more will it take for me to be Recognized, especially as I am taking the alternate career track (MLS not working in a library)?

I’m a firm believer in “bloom where you are planted.”  Awards and rankings do not always tell the whole story.  Just because your school is not on one list means it’s a horrible school.   Just because you didn’t get one award doesn’t mean you’re not accomplishing enough at your career.  I bloom where I am planted, and I have the respect and friendship of many — at my job, within ALA, other librarians worldwide. RUSA would not have asked me to chair taskforces and be an editor for RUSQ if they didn’t think I had the chops.  All those folk who came to my MOOC session at THATCamp Libraries Boston would not have shown up if they didn’t think I would not have anything interesting to say. ALA would not have asked me to cover New York Comic-Con if they thought I would bork up the whole thing.

It’s times like this I need to write “bloom where you are planted” on a post-it and put it where I can see it, so I don’t let negativity and beliefs that I am less of a person because of one missing thing get me down.

photo

Snoopy post-its also make everything better, I believe.

 To those feeling sad about missing the cut for some award this year, please do try and channel some of that frustration, anger, sadness, etc. into something positive.  Don’t get focused on one sole award and take your anger out in unhealthy and professionally damaging ways.  Know that you are respected and admired in your circles for whatever you do, and your career will not be made on whether or not you have “Library Journal Mover and Shaker 20xx” on your CV.

 You are more than an award. 

It’s something that I have to say to myself today (this blog post was part self-therapy 🙂 ), and every time I am rejected – after every job rejection letter from the search in 2010, from not being elected to Council TWICE in a row, to not being part of the M&S fraternity.  I am more than one thing.  You are too.

*This is not the first time I heard such comments.  I had an acquaintance comment once that my A’s at York College of Pennsylvania do not carry as much weight at her A’s from Rutgers University.

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Who Rule The World? Girls–A Look at the Scholarly Literature on Gender and Librarianship (Part 2)

Note from the Boss:  I am extremely floored, honored, and humbled by the responses received to Part 1.  Thank you.  This is the kind of conversation we should be having, and continue to have. 

In this post, I want to explore gender issues across different types of libraries, focusing first on the academic library.   The most vocal posters on gender and libraries often are those in youth services, and they are carrying up a fight that has gone on for over two decades, as Suzanne Hildenbrand noted back in 1989:

Turning from salary to status, the little research that exists tends to confirm the view that within librarianship, children’s librarianship does not enjoy a good reputation or high status.  (Hildenbrand 154)

Are these issues faced in other libraries? Time to find out.

The majority of the research I discovered comes from academia, and covers a wide variety of issues – scholarly publishing, collection development, administration and workforce.  There was just so much that I could find that I decided to spotlight academic libraries here, and revisit other areas of the field, including our friends in youth services, in another post.

As with Part 1, all sources cited here are available full text through EBSCO (Library Literature and Information Science Full text and Academic Search Premier) and Project Muse.   The College and Research Libraries article is freely available online. 

Who Rule the University Library?  Girls?

The first research on sexism in libraries was done in 1974, two years after Title IX became law.  Researcher Anita Schiller found that even in this female-dominant profession, women still faced pay gaps and underrepresentation in high level positions (Schiller 1974, cited in Moran et al. 2009, 216).  This wasn’t the last study, and work continued throughout the 1970s and 1980s – both of the field and of ways to effectuate change.

So, nearly forty years later, has much changed?  Barbara Moran and her colleagues took a look at this question in 2009, following up on two earlier studies done in 1985 and 1996.   Those studies showed that directorship positions were increasing through academia, though slower in research libraries than in liberal arts colleges (Moran 220).   Moran and her team, using the same methodology from earlier surveys (a review of the American Library Directory for those in three key positions – director, associate director and department head – for the time period of 1994 to 2004) discovered quite a few things:

  • The highest level of administration in academia were still the “old boys club” – the percentage of women directors was still lower than the overall workforce.   In spite of this, the number of women in administration continued to increase from the 1985 and 1996 studies.
  • Of the 99 Association of Research Libraries (ARL) reviewed, 42 (over 40 percent ) of libraries hired a director of a different gender than their predecessor.  28 positions held by men previously in 1994 were now held by women in 2004.
  • The 112 liberal arts colleges in the study saw some slower progress – only 31 of the 112 positions (28%) saw changes in gender with new hires.  Of these 31 changes, 20 saw a change from men to women.
  • As women in management in all professions increased from 1994 to 2004, so did women managers in academic libraries.  (Moran 222-224)

Clearly, there is some good news. The presence of women academic administrators continues to increase, both in the larger ARL libraries and in smaller liberal arts colleges, with the ARL libraries showing the greatest progress. And women in academic libraries are making more progress than other women in academia – there are still less tenured and tenure-track females on faculty, in spite of women holding the majority of the Ph.D’s in the United States. (West and Curtis 2006, cited in Moran 226).  We continue to crack the glass ceiling, and perhaps someday we will shatter it completely.

I would like to see a follow-up study incorporating other schools – specialized schools such as medical and law schools, along with community college and schools granting mainly associate’s degrees.  It would also be interesting to view these trends outside of the United States.  How does progress with academic hiring in Europe or Asia compare to the United States?

But What About the Rest of Us in the Workforce? 

A year after Moran’s study, she decided to look at the overall workforce of academic libraries.  While her work focused on education levels, retention and age, her review of the 2005 Workforce Issues in Library and Information Science Study (WILIS) uncovered some troubling differences in gender and salary.  Full time male academic librarians had a median salary of $57,500, and a mean of $64,000.   Female academic librarians showed a median salary of $49,000 with a mean of $53,385 – differences ranging from $8,000 – $9,000 (Moran 217).  The differences in median salary are higher than the current differences in pay equity between men and women – while women make $0.77 for every dollar a man makes, female academic librarians are making $0.83- $0.85 for every dollar their male counterparts make.   Better, but not perfect.

As with the administrator survey, I would love to see follow up work, if it exists, between different kinds of libraries, as well as differences between countries.  The WILIS survey focused on dataset (graduates from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) that included librarians from all fields (with the majority being academic librarians).

Women in the Library Collection

Do women find difficulties getting their voice in other aspects of the library, such as the library collection?   Hur-Li Lee tracks the development of women’s studies at Rutgers University, from the formation of the women’s studies coursework in the late 1960s to the mid-1990s.

Before the formal women’s studies program at the college started, Douglass College (Rutgers’ college for women) was collecting women’s materials to support a possible future program, as noted at the end of their collection development policy (Lee 341).  Unusual because no other college library before sought to collect something that wasn’t directly in support of existing coursework.  Sadly, the library did not have much interest from the women’ s studies faculty, because they were focusing on establishing their own reputation to the university (Lee 342).  Even as programs were established on the other Rutgers campuses, library collection of women’s studies materials remained at Douglass College, and other libraries throughout the system did not pick up on the need for these materials in their own holdings (Lee 344, 345):

Francis A. Johns, university bibliographer between 1958 and 1979, said, in an interview in 1995, “The stuff [meaning the available resources for women’s studies] was extremely limited [then] and presumably still is [now].

Change came in the late 1970s with the appointment of a new University Librarian, George A. Carroll, who supported a modern women writers’ collection, funded by the Rutgers Foundation.  This was unusual as (1) Douglass had been working on this project for most of the decade, (2) the request for the project came from someone not even connected with Douglass, and (3) Carroll went above the normal channels for collection development.  It was a broad stroke, but did not last due to other changes in the university structure.

Full change started to take hold in 1982, when the women’s studies programs at Douglass and Livingston merged, new leadership came on board, and the Women’s Studies program became both graduate and undergraduate level two years later (Lee 346).  The Douglass librarians also submitted their first proposal to the university for a women’s research center in 1982, but still found resistance from the main library (Alexander Library) as Douglass wanted the collection to be completely house on their campus (Lee 349).  By now, no one questioned the importance of women’s studies and their respective research materials – the devil was in the details!

By 1986, Alexander Library had its own women’s studies selector, and by 1988, the university bibliographer George Kanzler co-authored a proposal for the women’s studies library that included the following scenario:

Proposal III has the Douglass Library designated as a full-scale Women’s Studies Library including both a women’s studies resource center and archive collection. 

It wasn’t what Kanzler preferred, but inclusion of the proposal was a small victory for Douglass (Lee 352).  Two years later, the new Associate University Librarian (who was given responsibility for collection development in reform of the job duties in 1988), wrote a new collection development plan to allow for “the most advanced collections” to be developed at Douglass. (Lee 353).  There were still hurt feelings at Alexander and some territorial disputes, but after almost three decades of fighting for the existence of such a  collection, acquisition could finally go forward, but it would not be until the end of the decade (and more infighting over location and delivery of materials) before the research center took shape (Lee 355-356).

The establishment of this library is an interesting look at other battles women face in academic librarianship, from a collection development perspective. While acceptance of the idea of women’s studies as a research discipline did not take long (approximately 10 – 15 years), the establishment of the library took twice as long.   Douglass’ own commitment and insistence to housing the collection solely on their campus, along with a general perception of Douglass as lower in status compared to Rutgers College and other campuses led to politicking that slowed the process (Lee 357-358).   The lesson that other libraries can learn for establishing special collections (not just women’s studies collections) on their campus?

More often than not, politics is an important factor in librarians’ pursuit of excellence, but just as important in librarianship are the foundation of bibliography and the knowledge of user information-seeking behaviors (Lee 358). 

It’s not easy to say this, especially after the discussions about the negative connotation of the word, but the one solution that comes to mind is: Play nice with others.   However, this doesn’t mean standing down – it can mean to “engage in meaningful conversations to address the issues raised, including the political processes and potential solutions to the inflexible structures” of academic library collection development (Lee 358).In short, be civil.  Recognize the system in place and work to change it, but recognize that there may have to be give an take as well.   Here is where understanding of the art of negotiation will come in handy.   I had some training on negotiation tactics this summer, and it was the best training session I have ever attended – the skills discovered and developed there can only help you in the future.

I highly recommend this study for all interested in collection development (not just women’s studies).

Publish or Perish, Ladies

I’ve covered women in the academic library workforce (as administrators and employees), and women in the collection.  What about women in library science scholarly publishing?

As with the library administrator question, does the prevalence of women in the field lead to a prevalence of women in library science bibliometrics?  In the social sciences, studies have shown that female authors are underrepresented both in the own works and citations of others.  Malin Håkanson reviewed reference and citation data from 1980 to 2000 for three LIS journals:  College and Research Libraries, Journal of Academic Librarianship and The Library Quarterly, looking for answers to the following two questions:

  1. Does gender seem to affect both female and male authors’ choice of references?
  2. Does gender seem to affect the share of citations received by authors?  (Håkanson 313). 

This was not the first study of LIS citations by gender, but it is the first to survey both citation use and retrieval over a long period of time. A study of 16 LIS journals by Marianne Ferber from 1987-1989 discovered correlation between subject and gender.  Men wrote about document retrieval, international libraries and library history, whereas women wrote about children and youth services, instruction and standards (Håkanson 315).  However, this study did not include citation analysis.   Later studies by Elisabeth Davenport and Herbert Snyder revealed that female authors are underrepresented in articles by both women and men, but their sample set only covered ten years, perhaps not fully accounting for the time lag of publication and reference to the article.  (Håkanson 315)

First, what was discovered about gender and choice of references?

  • Of 29,445 references overall, over 17,000 were references to publications by men (59%).
  • Of the 10,794 articles authored by women, 53% of the citations came from men.
  • Of the 13,946 articles authored by men, 65% of the citations came from men.
  • Over time, this distribution converges.  In 1980, there was an approximately 60% difference between the two figures.   By 2000, this difference has decreased to around 10%. (Håkanson 317-318)

It was trickier to find a correlation between author’s gender and the number of citations.  Analyzing the results over time showed increasing and decreasing numbers, but overall the figures remained relatively constant.  (Håkanson 318).

So let’s look at the first question.  It has confirmed earlier results, and suggests that authors see articles authored by men as more credible towards their research.  However, the number of references to articles written by women increases over time, suggesting some form of gender parity in scholarly work (Håkanson 319). However, men still are using far less research by women as women are, thus the gender bias in choice of reference (Håkanson 320).

And what of citation analysis?  In spite of figures remaining fairly constant, men received more of the lion’s share of citations than women.  Could this be due to presence of scientific quality, importance, relevance, or impact?  (Håkanson 320).  But, as more articles by women became part of the scholarly landscape, their citation in other works tends to increase. This was not the case here:

The importance of gender does not seem to disappear even when the share of female authors becomes as large as or larger than the share of male authors….Instead, the indication of gender bias has become more subtle and complex. (Håkanson 321).

A study such as this confirms the importance of blind and double blind peer review. I’m an editor for Reference and User Services Quarterly, and I am grateful that identifying information from articles (with one or two exceptions) is stripped out.   It allows me to edit the articles with an eye to content, not the sex of the author.   I would be interested in going back to the articles I have reviewed to see any connection between gender and my comments.

Conclusions

The academic library is the petri dish for change.  We see increases in administration, collections and publications, but subtle gender biases are still there.  Sometimes, as in the case of Douglass College, women can be their own worst enemies, fighting for their cause without an eye to larger processes that could need their own reform first.    Pay gaps still exist, though happily they are not as large as the average.  Much has been done in the forty years since Title IX.  What will happen in the next 40 years?

What’s Next?

Part 3 will focus on the youth services librarians.  I feel a need to learn more about what they face in gender issues.  Thus, I invite any of the youth services librarians who read this blog (and I think there are more after publication of Part 1) to email me at librariankate7578 at gmail dot com with your own stories of gender bias, both within and outside the youth services realm.  All information will be kept confidential and names will be changed.

Sources

Håkanson, M. (July 2005). The impact of gender on citations: An analysis of college & research libraries, journal of academic librarianship, and library quarterly. College and Research Libraries, 66(4), 312-327.

Hildenbrand, S. (September 1, 1989). Women’s work within librarianship: Time to expand the feminist agenda. Library Journal, 114, 153-55.

Lee, H. (Fall 2002). Activism in library development: Women’s studies at rutgers university, 1970-1995. Libraries & Culture, 37(4), 339-362.

Moran, B. B., Leonard, E., & Zellers, J. (Fall 2009). Women administrators in academic libraries: Three decades of change. Library Trends, 58(2), 215-228.

Moran, B. B., Marshall, J. G., & Rathburn-Grubb, S. (Summer/Fall 2010). The academic library workforce: Past, present and future. Library Trends, 59(1-2), 208-217.

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Who Rule The World? Girls–A Look at the Scholarly Literature on Gender and Librarianship (Part 1)

Today (1 March) is the first day of Women’s History Month.

Earlier this week, the United States public television network PBS aired MAKERS: Women Who Make America, a 3 hour documentary on the past 50 years of feminism that is thorough, moving and highly recommended for all.

And because all things happen in threes, the library blogosphere witnessed an explosion of posts on the subject of feminism and gender politics in library-land, both new and revisited posts.   One of the most moving is Julie Jurgens’ very personal story of harassment and misogyny (get tissues before you read it, trust me). Marge Loch-Wouters* compiles a fine list of other posts on gender and librarianship, including Kelly Jensen’s take on the concept of being nice and several male librarians calling their gentleman peers to task on poor behavior (such as BeerBrarian and Nicholas Schiller).

Something in the air is ripe for another dialogue (or a continuation of the dialogue) on gender issues and libraries.  And being that I was home sick from work today and had time, I wanted to see what scholarly literature had to offer on the topic, and what connections I could find with recent events.**   Constructive (emphasis completely intentional) dialogue is welcome and encouraged.

(N.B. – everything cited here is available in full text through EBSCO Library Literature and Information Science Full Text, EBSCO Academic Search Premier, and Project MUSE.)

Off to the Wayback Machine…

I call the events of the past week a continuation of the conversation about gender in library-land, because it really is just that.   Professionals have been writing and speaking about this issue for over 25 years, and in this post, I wanted to look at some historical record of gender debate in libraries.

The first articles I found on the matter date back to the late 1980s, a time when feminism was in, for lack of a better, word, decline.  The marches of the 1970s had gone, and the conservative era was in full swing.   This is not to say there were not victories for the movement in the 1980s – Ellen DeGeneres was the first female comedian to sit and chat with Johnny Carson, women were making more and more strides in the workplace, and Thurman v. City of Torrington was a landmark case that led to strong domestic violence laws, including one in Connecticut that made domestic violence an automatically arrestable offense – whether or not the victim wants to press charges.

In the midst of this quieter era for the movement, women were starting to write and speak on how gender affects the profession.  Linda Silver took a look at this back in 1988 in her study on authority and deference in the female professions, challenging the assumption that because the composition of the workforce in librarianship, along with teaching, social work, and nursing, is primarily women, there was no such thing as male subordination.  The creation of these types of fields in the 19th century led to sex-typing of the jobs, creation of different roles for men and women in the new women dominant fields that were more like traditional roles (Silver 24).  In short, the prevalence of women in these women-dominant professions does not lead to dominance of women in leadership roles in the fields.  We see this ten years later in ALA data on the percentage of directors by gender. (Note this is out of date and under dispute, so take this with caution.  More recent statistics are welcome.)

At the 1988 Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) conference in Indianapolis, Sarah M. Pritchard discusses the successes of librarianship in “establishing broad based professional concern with the status of women,” but notes that there are “some advantages in our profession…[l]librarianship, even before feminism, was a female-dominated profession” leading to work on censorship and community needs that are very much in line with the thoughts of the women’s movement. The added grassroots nature of the feminist agenda in ALA has also led to more public acceptance, but this is only one part of the larger puzzle of the movement:

The philosophical goals of feminism have survived, but they were in the same place they always were: women’s groups, other social activist groups, scholarly and political writings…[i]f they are not yet in all of our workplaces and in our public images, it is only because one can’t achieve a revolution in economics and consciousness based on small shifts…[i]t is a bit like taking a quarter of one aspirin and then wondering why your headache is still there. (Pritchard 77).

Roma Harris on Gender, Power and the Pursuit of Professionalism

By far, the article I loved the most from my literature review was published by Roma Harris in American Libraries magazine in October 1993:  “Gender, Power and the Dangerous Pursuit or Professionalism.” Very short, but very compelling.

We open with a statement that, over 20 years on, still holds true today (and what some of the bloggers I cite above call our peers out on doing):

[L]ibrarians have demonstrated an unfortunate inclination to blame one another.  They tend to see in each other signs of weakness that undermine the profession, rather than recognize that their status and control problems reflect a more global condition rooted in the politics of power and gender.  (Harris 874)

I will explore the correlations among gender issues and type of library in a later post, but one can’t help but notice that the most vocal bloggers on the belief that while their work isn’t sexy, it still has value, are youth services librarians, a group near and dear to my heart.***   Several youth librarians point to cases of their work being seen as less than worthy, sexy or innovative.   And this is not a new argument.

First, here are Julie’s words, written on 28 February 2013:

They don’t need me to shove an iPad in their face and show them an app. They need to hear me tell them fairy tales, and nursery rhymes, and show them the way to being creative and happy human beings. There will be time enough for tech. They don’t need me to lead them to it. They will find that on their own.  (Source)

More from Julie on this topic, written earlier this year (15 January 2013):

If we blogged about hot button topics like e-books for babies or stripping our children’s departments down to look like futuristic lunchrooms filled with ipads, perhaps we’d get a ton of traffic. But we don’t. We write about our quiet successes and failures, about the simple craft of creating a flannel story, about what rhymes will fit with certain themes.

In a profession that’s supposedly dominated by women, I find it sad that the librarians who get the most attention are mostly men (and, admittedly, some women), men who very rarely write about honest, simple, day to day issues in librarianship…These men spin elaborate fantasies about librarians being information rockstars who dress to impress (either flashily or with an eye to ironic hipsterism), dismiss librarians who still use books to connect with patrons as hopelessly backwards, and come up with gimmick after gimmick to get libraries “noticed” without ever once writing about a concrete, applicable thing that they have actually done.  (Source)

And 2o years earlier, here are Harris’ thoughts on the changing roles of libraries, written in October 1993:

The service relationship in librarianship is also being increasingly undermined by practitioners who contend that administrative and technical functions are the only appropriate roles for professional librarians…Librarianship is becoming an occupation in which practitioners are removed from direct contact with patrons, and what is emphasized, preserved and valued are administrative and technical functions.  These changes – spurred in part by the twin beliefs that technology is the key to a higher status future and that professionalism can be achieved by avoiding undervalued (i.e. female) work – may well result in the complete erosion of the profession of librarianship.   (Harris 875-876).

Clearly, we’ve been fighting the tech v. service battle in our libraries for a very long time, and have yet, in 2013, to find an answer.

The solution?  A revolution, of sorts – a “Take Back the Library” for women and for all librarians:

Librarians who wish to stop the erosion of their profession must stop shunning the female traditions of library work…Rather than berating one another for not being professional enough, or reshaping the profession away from its valuable core domain, librarians must understand that they can strengthen their role…by consolidating their control over their rightful turf, not by self-denigration and denial of their field’s woman centered history. (Harris 876)

Final Thoughts

The  idea of gender and gender power in the library and technology versus service are not new.  If we really want to make progress in libraries as a home for gender equity, we need to stop eating our own first, and respecting all the work – even the unsexy work – that our peers do.   Let’s fix our own community, because it’s clearly still broken – we’ve made strides, but still fail in certain key lessons.  Our own work to make ourselves better might lead to the larger women’s revolution that Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and Letty Cottin Pogrebin dreamed about 40 – 50 years ago.

Further Reading

Because I have only scratched the surface, the Feminist Task Force has made a fantastic bibliography available on their website that accompanies another essay by Ms. Pritchard, “Feminist Thinking and Librarianship in the 1990s: Issues and Challenges.”  Those interested in historical discussions of all these issues are encouraged to review the resources available.

Part 2 will focus on how widespread these discussions are.   For the most part, the most active bloggers speaking out about gender in the library seem to be from the children’s/YA sector.   Are other areas of librarianship – adult services, special libraries, academic libraries – also noticing these issues, and if so, what are they saying?

Please feel free to share other sources in the comments. 

Sources

Harris, R. M. (1992). Gender, power, and the dangerous pursuit of professionalism. American Libraries, 24(9), 874-876.

Pritchard, S. M. (1989, August 1989). The impact of feminism on women in the profession. Library Journal, 114, 76-77.

Silver, L. R. (January 1988, Deference to authority in the feminized professions. School Library Journal, 34, 21-27.

* In the course of conversations on setting up a possible forum on gender and libraries for the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago this summer, I found out Marge and I have a common friend, the Hedgehog Librarian, who used to work with her at LaCrosse PL.  Library land is a very small world….

** In between fits of playing Phase 10 on my iPad.  It’s my new obsession.

*** My sister is a children’s librarian in New Jersey, and I worked with her in her library for seven months when I was unemployed/underemployed.  It isn’t a lot of time in that field, but it gave me a taste of the good work, tireless work that those who serve children do.

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Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones….

…But words can and will hurt.

Remember when you first heard that little sing-song as a kid?  It’s actually “Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Will Never Hurt Me?”

It’s wrong.  The Internet is the first proof of that.

I love my Facebook and Twitter social life, as evidenced by how often I use it.  And then the dark underbelly shows its side and I get very cross and wonder what to do next. The dark underbelly rolled over, begged to be scratched last week and the itch was fed.

I’m talking about this particular matter – a case of bullying in a group that is really a fun place for librarians.   We’ll call it the Librarian Living Room.  Where we can go for a drink, get some advice, and have some fun (see the whole kitchen implement post.)  The group that has gained such a reputation outside of its social network home that people (myself included) are using it for name recognition for our candidacy for American Library Association (ALA) office.  We love it, we love what it stands for, and we love being good stewards of the group that represents the game changers within our professional association.

And then this week, a conversation on cultural appropriation got very ugly, very fast.  And turned into personal attacks offline on someone’s character.

I stayed out of the initial conversation, having learned the “too many cooks spoil the broth” lesson too often in college.   (Plus, I was trying to get work done.  Internet = rabbit hole of Nothing Getting Finished.)  Thus, I was sidelines girl, and only caught up on the matter after reading the full story as linked above.

I was shocked that people could stoop so low, and sad that it had to happen – heightened by my own experiences with an online bully in my online computer class this fall.   Just like Ingrid, a civil discussion on the logistics of one of our assignments went completely out of control based on one comment that my (male) significant other helped with part of the assignment.  In the course of a few posts, I was:

  1. Accused of cheating
  2. Accused of furthering sexist stereotypes of women in mathematics and sciences by asking for help instead of figuring it out all by myself.
  3. Flaunting my good looks and ability to catch a man to get ahead in the field (I think the exact phrase was “learning to code by slipping into my little black dress” – I don’t even own one!)

I am grateful to all who came to my defense – to people on the message boards who told our troll constructively (and sometimes not so constructively) to back off, to the person who emailed me to let me know that the troll had a public post to our instructors asking for review, and to the people that ended up reporting said troll to Coursera for harassment.   I never received any closure on the matter (meaning, an apology from the instigator) and sometimes, I wish I did.  It hurt me because I know I’m not like that.  I asked for help because I needed it – if I was still at home and asked my mom, or if my SO was of the same gender, would we be having this conversation?  Is the fact that I asked for help considered cheating?  I had a few moments of feeling very down on myself and not wanting to complete the course.

I don’t often agree with what Ingrid says, or how she says it – but I can agree that what happened to her was wrong.   I applaud her for putting herself out there, not just in this matter, but on other issues of importance to her.   I may not like what you say, or how you say it, but I will do my best not to suppress you from saying it.   (Plus her blog is also interesting.  I used to work in a public library children’s room, and I like to keep up on the issues and matters of the day outside of my current work.)

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself (And Others)

I hope this was a wake up call for anyone and everyone in the Librarian Living Room (and everyone else out there on the Internet) about what we say and how we say it.   It’s okay to talk about things; that’s how we grow.  There’s no need to shy away from debate and conflict; it is healthy.  When I worked on my college newspaper, we had the “WTF” folder for those letters that were just WAY out there.   But every one of those letters in that folder got published.

But let’s watch the sarcasm.  Sometimes something serious is not the time and the place for a witty comment – no matter how famous or “rock star” you think you are.*  Context, context, context.

I am not saying change who you are, be Mr./Ms. Congeniality.  Strong opinions are what make the change in this world.   What I am suggesting that you consider your words carefully. Be a bit more sensitive to others. Perhaps the hot button issue on gender or cultural appropriation is not the place for something sarcastic.   And if you do offend (because hey, sometimes you CAN’T tell!), apologize right away.  Take responsibility that your words were wrong. Step away from the conversation (and maybe the Internet for a few days).   Or just don’t write it at all.

Back to the college newspaper – that editor in chief wrote a very controversial editorial about gender that thinly described aspects of his ex girlfriend and their relationship (who was also a student).  She found out, threatened to sue him and the college – and he lost his position on the paper and his student housing. He took responsibility for that piece, and apologized, but it cost him dearly.   I wonder what would have happened if he was just a bit more careful and decided to leave his ex out of it.

Expect courtesy from everyone, regardless of gender or status in your professional world.   Step in when you see a colleague being bullied and put a stop to it – no one can and should be allowed to get away with personal attacks on character, regardless of gender or social standing or whatever.  I don’t do this enough, and I come up with excuse after excuse – “OMG WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK OF ME?”  “I don’t want to get involved because I don’t have time.” “I don’t want to sound like an idiot.” – ad infinitum.  I pledge now to do so more in the future, in my librarian world and in my other social networking worlds (steampunk, knitting, tech, gaming).  If being the beacon of the right way means losing a professional colleague or friend, so be it.  Think about it – would you have really wanted to be associated with them in the first place if they acted like that?

In a profession with a high expectation on openness of ideas and competence of technology, we owe it to ourselves to be better stewards of communication and information that what I saw this weekend. There are people that depend on us – as guardians of intelligence, a safe place outside of family and friends to find information.  If we cannot set the same expectation for ourselves, what will our patrons think?

I welcome your comments. (But please, keep it civil, k :))

*  I’m not even going to get into THAT minefield. Instead, I will encourage you to read this for a thoughtful take on the matter that details well my feelings.

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Posted in Everyday Life, Notes from the Boss, Opinion, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Happy New Year!

A Happy and Healthy New Year to all my readers, as well as a Happy Russian Orthodox Christmas and Three Kings Day (both of which are today) to those who celebrate.

It’s been a while, I know.  Work was work, Hurricane Sandy*, and then I spent my entire Christmas holiday with the flu.  So what’s been going on?

The Great MOOC Experiment

As mentioned back in September (!!!), I took my first Coursera class in the fall – Learn to Program: The Fundamentals.  Overall, I was rather impressed with the course, especially since this was the first time the instructors had taught an online course of this nature.  They did cram a lot of information into seven weeks (eight thanks to Hurricane Sandy), and I wish it could have been longer.  Many of us had trouble with the last assignment for just this reason.  I am signed up to take a class in E-Learning and Digital Cultures that starts at the end of the month, and I would also take another course with the instructors I had for the programming class again. (In fact, they will be offering another course on Crafting Quality Code, date TBD.)

The only dark mark on the class was an experience in the dark side of the internet.  In airing my frustrations with the aformentioned last assignment, I casually mentioned that my boyfriend helped me with some of the work.   A fellow student in the class immediately assumed that a.  he did all the work, thus I cheated, and b. that I was reinforcing the stereotype that women could not handle hard subjects in the sciences. With this, I was immediately accused of cheating, and (according to the poster), formal complaints were made to Coursera and to the course instructors.  Thankfully, several posters came to my defense and no action was taken (I still got my certificate).

It seems this poster interpreted the professors’ assertion that “all the information you need is in the course materials” too literally, and attacked anyone who mentioned even the slightest bit of outside help – accusing study groups of posting answers on the internet, etc.   A sour experience, but one that had me thinking many things, such as the advancements MOOCs may need to protect security, and the concepts of collaborative learning and what they mean for 21st century education.

ALA Activity

Outside of all my existing positions, I am running for ALA Council again, and am featured in the ballot for two other offices:  the New Members Round Table’s Leadership Development Director, and the Reference and User Services Association Member-at-Large for their CODES Division. I’m also happy to be continuing some of the earlier reform work I did for RUSA.  You may recall that I was part of a taskforce to make suggestions for RUSA to change its structure – eliminate redundancies, find new committees to meet changing membership needs, etc.   Phase II of that work comes to fruition this year – I am now part of the committee that will put those ideas into action.  It’s nice to see my hard work not forgotten.

Another project that will live on in 2013 is my 2011 ALA Emerging Leaders work on video game collection development.  I’ll be presenting the best practices that our group uncovered at the 2013 ACRL conference in Indianapolis.  Our program is called “Game On! Creating Video Collections at Academic Libraries” and I am presenting with a great bunch of librarians.  If you are attending and don’t have anything to do on Friday 11 April from 10:30 – 11:30 AM, now you have an idea.

What’s Next

I’ll be at all three ALA conferences this year – ALA Midwinter, ACRL, and ALA Annual.  If you see me, say hi!  If you listen to the T is for Training podcast (and if you aren’t, now is a good time to start), I will be contributing throughout the year as my schedule allows.

I hope to continue on with professional development in formal (presentations at conference, publications, committee work) and informal ways (uh, blogging 🙂 ) throughout 2013, but – and here’s the challenge – it must be balanced with downtime.  Losing my entire Christmas holiday to the flu was a big wake-up call for me.  I have been burning the candle at all three ends for too long and it needs to stop.  This means I may have to say no to some endeavors, use my time as effectively as I can (working smarter, not harder – a mantra I perfected in library school!), and remembering simple things like taking a lunch hour at work and not front-loading my weekends with too much activity.  There may be other ways I strive to find balance in this year (larger life changes), but I won’t go into too much detail right now since such plans are in very preliminary stages.

If anything, that’s my biggest New Year’s resolution – to find the balance between work and play.  Let’s see how the year goes.

* I did make it through Hurricane Sandy okay.  The Connecticut Shoreline (where I live) got its share of storm damage, but I live far enough inland (and on a very large hill!) that I did not see any flooding.  We only lost power briefly.  The largest inconvenience was being without television/internet/phone for two days.  My office in Lower Manhattan was closed for a week, and then reopened with no heat.  Nearly three months later, the entire neighborhood is still in varying levels of recovery.

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Posted in Career Planning, Education, Everyday Life, LIS, Professional Development | Leave a comment

Oh, Back to School, Back to School, To Prove to Dad that I’m not a Fool: A Review of Various Online Learning Modules

(Title Reference. We had a running joke with this movie in high school.)

It’s no secret that online learning fascinates me. Regular readers – all six of you 🙂 – know that my undergraduate education was in the Internet’s infancy, and my library school did not have any online courses as a matter of principle. (I got my MLS from an art school. Online coursework in fine arts would have been a bit difficult, albeit very interesting.) Thus, I am fascinated with the different online modules out there, with this post being a review of those I have interacted with of late.

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Posted in Education, Tech | 1 Comment

Drupal Camp CT

After a two week hiatus for the Olympics (because swimming, track and other sports one can only see ever four years trumps librarianship, at least in my world), I’m back to the blog (as well as a normal sleep schedule) and all things libraries.

Yesterday, I went to Drupal Camp CT at Yale University.

(Image courtesy of http://www.stickergiant.com/blog/drupal-camp-ct-2012/)

(Interlude: If you don’t know what Drupal is, read this or this first, then come back here.)

While not my first unconference (that was InfoCamp Seattle), it was the first focusing on a specific topic. Being new to Drupal (but not new to programming in general) I was on the beginner/intermediate border, so I wasn’t sure where (or how) I fit in the community.

Some thoughts on the sessions I attended: Continue reading

Posted in Career Planning, Feminism, LIS, Professional Development, Tech, User Experience Design, UX | 5 Comments