HEY LIBRARYLAND – let’s all start doing some amazing shit. now.
HEY LIBRARYLAND – let’s all start doing some amazing shit. now.
whoa. that was intense. while i’m not happy with my presentation at TEDxLibrarians, i am happy that i accepted the challenge (doing things that scare me n’all). such a learning experience. rock.
the event, however, was wonderful. many thanks to the organizers for a such a thought-provoking day. shelley and fiacre – you guys are the best.
here is the talk i meant to give.
so when thinking about this talk, i started thinking about things i do everyday
i use and evaluate new technologies – from high speed book scanners to the semantic web
i educate my community – from finding accurate authoritative information to author rights
i design new service and spaces – both in meatspace and cyberspace
and where do i do all of this?
i almost never refer to this as the place where i work. because the library is a building, and what we do, what librarians do, is more than just what can be found in a building. in fact, the very reason most of us do what we do, is because we want to bring the library to the community, and not vice versa.
when people ask where i work, i typically say…
i like this term. this is what i’m passionate about. it’s… vast. it represents all the different kinds of librarians out there – public, academic, special.
it means more than just books on shelves in buildings. it’s more than bunheads and shelvers.
it’s a community of people who believe that helping people find and do things is what makes the world a better place.
it is everyone who wants to provide access to information, because…
because access to information is a human right. i believe this. librarylanders believe this.
we see this as a driving force for what we do and why for many of us, this is a vocation, not a job. i’m not a librarian for the bling. i’m a librarian because i fundamentally believe that i can help make society a better place to live by figuring out ways to provide better access to information. so when i’m having a bad day, and stressed about budgets, and policies, and workplace shenanigans, i remember: THIS IS WHY I DO IT.
librarians as thought leaders is a killer concept.
being a librarian, i know that there are many definitions of thought leader – from business literature, HR blogs, philosophy texts, and various talks given by people held at airport hotels on a saturday morning.
but when i think of librarians as thought leaders, i think of…
believing in access to information as a human right means fighting for our communities. fighting to make sure the digital divide continues to shrink. fighting for privacy for our users. fighting against the entire concept of censorship. and lately, fighting for libraries.
so this is my call to arms. librarians are revolutionaries, and society needs us. and no i don’t mean killing all the things with fire.
true thought leaders, true revolutionaries, are willing to overthrow the system, or join it, if that’s what works best for their community.
there is a long list of things that are worth fighting for, and worrying about.
but there are also things that i am not worried about:
the end of print books
the end of libraries
students using wikipedia
google replacing librarians (my brain beats a google algorithm in any street fight. please note: i fight dirty).
there are things that we should worry about – and as librarians are uniquely placed to fight for.
the scholarly communication system needs a complete overhaul.
scholarship has moved online, publishers need to adapt and change.
librarians are uniquely positioned to help fix scholarly publishing. we support research and publishing on a daily basis. allowing publishers to then charge us ridiculous sums of money to make this research, which we helped produce, available to our communities, is ludicrous. as one of my favourite librarians recently said “we don’t owe publishers a living”.
and as a librarian if you are not supporting the open access movement, ask yourself if you really believe that access to information is a human right.
another issue that we can help fix -
access to electronic content has been taken over by large corporations who ultimately care more about the bottom line, than the community. Harry Potter is coming to the ebook format. but only available through the publisher’s website, not through the library. this despite the fact libraries have build entire reading programs for kids around Harry Potter and are, i would argue, responsible for much of the success of the series.
and there is more, there’s always more. the fight for net neutrality – that is our fight.
it’s time for a renewal, and, okay, i’m going to say it… CHANGE?
there is lots to be fixed. revolutionaries are doers, not sayers. revolutionaries don’t make provocative statements, they take radical action.
they are always looking for ways to make society better. they don’t shake their heads and say “but this is how we’ve always done it”.
challenge legacy processes.
all of them.
it’s a kickass time to be a librarian. so many opportunities to make society better. and that’s why we do this, right? we aren’t becoming millionaires. we aren’t going to rule the world (ok, maybe we will). so what are we?
we are educators (if you don’t think you are because you don’t do officially do “instruction”, just ask your friends. i guarantee you are the person that they go to with questions on a regular basis)
we are ninjas (no one sees us coming, and then POW we smackdown a school board who wants to ban a kids book about growing up in a gay family)
we are curious (that old adage about curiosity killing the cat? think about how curious librarians are. then think about librarians and cats. no killing happening there ; )
we are community-minded (you can’t have a properly informed citizenry without a library. point final.)
and we inspire each other.
Peter Brantley of the Internet Archive had a great post last year about leadership in libraries, and how we can’t let just those at the top determine the future for us. in it he quotes Faulkner’s “Them that’s going, get in the goddamn wagon. Them that ain’t, get out the goddamn way.”
so i guess what i’m trying to say today, is that on those days when this gig feels a bit too paper-pushy / reprimand-y / WAY TOO MANY MEETINGS ZOMG… remember: librarians are able to start revolutions, and that is a powerful thing. we can build the future of libraryland together and show the world just how awesome it is to call yourself a librarian. it’s not going to be easy, but it is right, and as crazy as it sounds, it will make the world a better place.
We’re already doing a lot of the things he says we should be doing. We just haven’t told anyone yet, and that’s our fault.
i agree. the onus is on libraryland to make folks aware of our awesome. it’s okay to be awesome, and it’s okay to tell people about it. isn’t that what we do, really? inform our communities about things they need to know about?
so when seth starts talking about printed books as the main resource at libraries all i can think is that we need to do more to help folks like seth understand what librarians do. because (back to the censored genius)
[...] a good librarian would never exclude a data format from the search results. You ask me for information on turtles and you’re getting everything I can find, and that includes printed books.
YES! librarians are going to exhaust their available resources to answer your question – so please quit talking about how we:
(for the record: meh, wrong, and my brain totally wins in a streetfight against a google algorithm.) (i fight dirty.)
<tangent>and about these resources at our disposal, can we please start working with vendors that respect libraries, see our mission as making information available to everyone, and want to help us, instead of roping us into contracts that are unsustainable and end up forcing libraries to cut services to meet subscription rates increasing at an exponential rate? (for one possible solution, check out library renewal. ya ya, i know i’m friends with a bunch of the board members, don’t hold it against them.)</tangent>
back to being a librarian and finding crap for our communities… that’s what we do. we make available the best (and the worst) of the world’s content for our users. others (like Amazon and Netflix) have copied OUR model of service. sure they have bigger budgets, and lotsa infrastructure, but they don’t actually work for the community, they work for the bottom line. but not us. or, as the censored genius puts it:
I’m the fucking librarian, motherfucker. I am not any corporation’s bitch. And if I want books in the library, we’re having books. And DVDs. And econtent. And graphic novels. And pie.
being a librarian means finding the best resource to best answer the question. sometimes that means parsing data from an experiment to help evaluate methodology. sometimes that means determining which microfiche had the obit for a certain big city mucketymuck because your user swears her grandmother dated him before the war. sometimes that means watching the credits of a dvd to figure out who was the best boy on les invasions barbares. and sometimes, that even means consulting a printed book.
let’s all work on telling our communities about what we offer and how we can help them better than google – okay? knowledge requires collaboration.
and seth? thanks for the concern, but we got this.
and we have pie.
[update: there are nsfw tshirts available. <3]
in about 4 minutes flat.
also, @declan and @danwho tweeted that i forgot to mention how important beer is to building a network. while not essential, it certainly can help. but not lite beer, that stuff’ll just make you enemies.
new grads frequently ask about my career path, about how i managed to move up the food chain quicker than most, and, in some awesomely awkward instances, they actually word it as “what is the secret to your success”.
this is the secret/my career path/how i macgyvered my way up in libraryland:
i reach out to others in libraryland and ask questions all the time.
this pic is of krista and i on our four year “anniversary” of rooming together at CiL conferences. how did it start? four years and a few months before CiL2008 i called her and said “hey, you are doing cool stuff. when i graduate from mcgill library school i want to do similar stuff to you. also, i want to go to CiL and i see you are speaking there, any chance we can split the cost of a room?” she said yes.
for the record:
1. i do not recommend asking to bunk with someone as your first foray into meeting other librarylanders.
2. #1 could work but is likely not something you can use in a “how did you guys meet” story.
3. sorry krista, for blogging about how we met!
but i did learn to always ask. if you want to go to a conference but can’t afford it, talk to the organizers and volunteer your time in return for free registration. even if it means only getting to see one session, the time spent networking with others at the conference is well worth it.
in the same vein, if you want to learn about a project/figure out how something works, just ask. you’d be surprise how nice librarians are… mostly. ; )
since then, i have found myself a group of mentors. some i work with, most i don’t. what’s most important is that i went out and built a network for myself – a network of people that i admire, and want to be like “when i grow up”. these are librarylanders with drive, ambition, perseverance, awesome ideas, and the guts to go for it when the haters are in full-on hate mode. these people? these are the ones i turn to for advice, comfort, comiseration, or a good kick in the ass. i also will eternally have their backs, as they have mine. some of them might not even realize they are mentors to me, but they are. (and for you mentors who don’t like it… sukkit. <3 jambina.)
build yourself a network. it’s not hard, but you have to be fully invested. if you do, i promise it is well worth it.
for many reasons – but this is currently #1.
get comfortable and get ready to get your learn on.
just back from computers in libraries, which is now back at the washington hilton (buh bye crystal city).
this conference always fills me with inspiration and energy to make libraryland as awesome as it can be, but this doesn’t necessarily happen in presentations.
the washington hilton has a glorious patio with three huge firepits and comfy chairs. every break in the conference, and pretty much every evening, i found myself surrounded by passionate people who are actively trying to make libraryland a better place. sitting around the fire, chatting and laughing, this is where i learned the most about great initiatives and people.
i frequently say that i want to “kill it with fire” when referring to parts of libraryland that are broken or antiquated. after being filled with inspiration sitting around a firepit, i guess i can now say that we can “build it with fire” as well.
the beauty of being a librarian (or perhaps the horror, depending on the day) is that you are always a librarian – no matter what you are chatting about, you always come back to similar themes: access, authority, and service.
awhile ago a little chat on friendfeed (which likely started nowhere near what it became) evolved into david developing a bit of a “manifesto” for what he calls (and i love) “common sense librarianship“.
go and read it. my favourite is the first:
The world of information has always been in a constant state of flux. As technology continues to changes the world of information, it is preferable for information professionals and the institutions they serve to adapt rather than perish.
and this is the thing, as much as i rant about how slow change is in libraryland, we are capable of doing it. think of the changes in libraries over the past 100 years!
our track record indicates that we are able to adapt and change, we just have to stop being scared to do it.
ZOMG YES THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I MEANT! thanks worldcat, good catch.
this is exactly why the world needs librarians. no matter how good your algorithms are, sometimes they just, ummm, don’t work.
gotta run! mumumelon is having a big sale on koga pants.
*and with this post, i have initiated a new category for this blog – “headdesk”
then please please please check out this great slidedeck by Ned Potter first.
(thanks to kendra for blogging this first!)