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The results are in!

2 Apr

Thanks for voting in the New Librarian Pinterest contest!  Brooklyn Biblio took top honors!  If you didn’t get a chance last week, check out the Elite 8.  I’m so proud to be in the new generation of librarians with a vision for what librarians can and should be.

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about the Women’s History crowdsourcing project! I’ve been a busy little bee applying to jobs because holy wow, I’m finishing my MLS in a month!  Stay tuned…

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Librarian As Leader

9 Dec
TL09 View of School Libraries

Image by Carol VanHook via Flickr

Here it is, December 9th, and my last day of the Fall 2011 semester. Unreal! It is apropos then, that our last discussion for my Information Technology in Educational Organizations class is on the topic of leadership, as if our professor is sending us off into the future but reminding us that we’re not always going to be library students. We are soon-to-be librarians, and that job description (officially and often, unofficially) extends way beyond the physical act of running the library. We are being cultivated as a crop of new community leaders – whether that community be a neighborhood, a government organization, a school or a company.

One important aspect of leadership is demonstrating value. Not just the value of you, as a member of a staff or faculty, or even just of your library as a space. (Though that is part of it.) We’re going to need to demonstrate the value of our library program to the community and possibly sometimes the value of libraries in the world. Sheesh! No pressure.

Here is a :30 Animoto promo as an example of the types of ideas school librarians need to reinforce in the educator/ administrator and student communities they serve.  The statements here are true, but a bit vague.  I hope this serves as a starting point for people to give them ideas of more detailed advocacy outreach they can do:

Other than video production, there is some every day work we can do to gather evidence to back up our assertions on the value of libraries/ librarians/ programs.  Sometimes you may want to gather specific research or test results to show improvement on a specific challenge your community is having, but these measurements are good to have all of the time, as a way of comparing one semester or year over past years to show long-term accomplishments: Continue reading

Local News: Greenpoint Friends call for new members

21 Oct

On the off-chance anyone from my neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn stops by this blog, please take a minute to read this.

I have been a member of the Greenpoint Friends for a few years now, and it has been a very enriching experience.  Most people who have chosen to call Greenpoint home love it for reasons that can be difficult to define, and I am one of those people.  Volunteering with the Friends is not something I do simply to add a library experience to my resume.  (In fact, I began my involvement with them before I even knew I wanted to be a librarian – and my time with them is a large part of why I decided to go to Library School!)

Here’s why: once you spend time and effort in the community, you become a bigger part of the community, and you see it in ways you didn’t before.  You can only grow to love your neighborhood more through working to make it better.  I have met incredible, generous and smart people through this organization who have become personal friends. (We affectionately refer to ourselves as “lower case friends” in the context of our social interactions outside of the Friends group.)  We want to grow and make a bigger impact in our community, so we’re really pushing to have new people come check out our next meeting (or any meeting!) and become involved.  We typically meet on the first Wednesday of every month at the Greenpoint Branch of BPL at 7:00 PM.

Who are the Friends of the Greenpoint Library?

Looking northeast at Greenpoint Branch of Broo...

Image via Wikipedia

We are a volunteer run, library advocacy group, and are active in the neighborhood. Our central goals are to:

  • Raise their community’s awareness and enthusiasm about the local library
  • Promote the local library’s resources and programs in the neighborhood
  • Keep local officials aware of the library’s importance to the communities they represent
  • Raise funds to enhance neighborhood library service.

Friends do everything from letter writing and making legislative visits to sponsoring library events; from planting gardens to organizing bake, craft and toy sales to musical performances for both children and adults. Just a little of your time can make a big difference for our community!

How can you get involved?

By the way, if you don’t live in Greenpoint, but Greenpoint Friends sounds like something you wish you could be a part of, please check in with your local public library branch and ask if they have a Friends group you could become involved with.  If they don’t, why don’t you ask about how you could start one? ALTAFF has a website with a lot of useful information for people interested in starting Friends groups.  Public libraries need love right now more than ever, and they are crucially important to our communities.

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Extreme Librarianship: Biblioburro!

20 Jul

This documentary was brought to my attention by LIS News today. It’s about an amazingly dedicated librarian who carries books by donkey to help educate children in dangerous and remote areas of Colombia. It’s about an hour long, and it is an inspiration.

Here is a link to a short article about the documentary: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705387772/Biblioburro-PBS-features-hard-working-librarian-donkey-library.html

Here is a 2-minute trailer for the documentary:

Here is a link to the full film: http://video.pbs.org/video/2061537618/

Especially moving is the calmness and acceptance with which these very young children retell the horror stories they have survived. I doubt many of us will face the severe challenges that Luis Soriano faces in just two workdays that are covered in this film, but I hope that we will all be able to meet the challenges that do come our way with half as much patience, resolve and courage! If anyone else saw this on PBS last night, or has a chance to watch it in the future, I’d love to hear what people think of it in the comments section.

Dear Mayor Bloomberg

5 Jun
New York Mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

Image via Wikipedia

Dear Mayor Bloomberg,

In a few weeks, you’ll be negotiating the NYC budget for 2012.  I know you’ve got people from all over the city making the case for why various public service budgets need to be stabilized and restored rather than drastically cut, as originally proposed: the firefighters, the public school teachers, the NYPD, and last but not least, the Brooklyn, Queens and New York Public Library systems.  I think the citizens of New York will suffer with drastic cuts to any one of these vital public services, let alone all of them.   Today I am writing to tell you why you are doing a disservice to so many New Yorkers with the library cuts you’ve proposed in particular, and I’m appealing to your rationality and humanity in the hopes you will reconsider.

There are no two neighborhoods in New York that are alike.  From Bay Ridge to Brownsville to Bushwick to Astoria to Rego Park to Flushing to Chelsea to Spanish Harlem to the South Bronx, every niche and nook and cranny of this city serves a unique population, and every one of them is vital to what makes New York – well, New York.  If you can make it here, there is a place for you.  (Making it here gets tougher and tougher, though.)  The diversity of this city and of each special neighborhood highlights the reason every single branch of the New York, Brooklyn and Queens Public Library systems matters, and why every single day, actually every single MOMENT we can afford to keep each branch open and fully staffed with library professionals is so incredibly important.  If my neighborhood branch in Greenpoint closed, where else could its vast Polish-speaking population possibly access a comparable Polish-language print collection or Polish-speaking librarians to help them navigate online job applications?  Where would the students of the six public schools in our neighborhood – at least two of which don’t even have school libraries – go after school for a safe place to do research, find books and graphic novels for pleasure reading, or even just hang out?  How are underemployed or disenfranchised New Yorkers going to find work or assistance if there’s no longer free internet access in walking distance – or at least quick (ha!) public transit distance of their apartment?

Every single neighborhood library branch serves a unique population, and the professionals that work there specialize those libraries’ collections to best serve their communities to the best of their ability – and the city and state budgets certainly haven’t made it easy for them to do so.  Year after year, you’re asking these librarians to do more with less – and these branches to do more with less actual librarians.  When do we reach the point where we realize we can’t squeeze anything more out of the piggy bank, and our communities can’t possibly survive if anything more is taken away?

New Yorkers aren’t the only ones in danger, here.  New York herself is in danger.  She’s losing us.  Every year that goes by that more and more is taken away and our cost of living continues to skyrocket and transportation becomes less and less viable, the more the dream of New York fades for the average American.  Why should we stay?  Why should others come?

You asked for a third term, and we gave it to you.  What are you going to do with it? What will your legacy become?

Sincerely,

Brooklyn Biblio

If you are reading this and you are not Mayor Bloomberg, but you want to advocate on behalf of NYC or New York State libraries, the following websites offer information about the budget cuts, information about upcoming advocacy events, and easy-as-pie forms to help you write to City Council, Mayor Bloomberg or New York State officials to voice your concerns: 

Urban Librarians Unite (ULU) / Save  NYC Libraries
New York Public Library
Brooklyn Public Library
Queens Public Library

If you are a New York State resident in or out of NYC, you can learn more about ways to advocate from the New York Library Association.

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Library Advocacy

1 Mar
New York State Capitol, Assembly Chamber from ...

Image by Cornell University Library via Flickr

I can’t speak for all MLIS programs, but at Syracuse University, the themes of advocacy and activism in librarianship are woven throughout our required courses, internships and unofficial mentorships. The fact that we need to be (and are) educated to advocate not only says a lot about the undue challenges of the librarian profession, but it speaks volumes about librarians as a breed.

Today is Library Advocacy Day in Albany, NY.  Librarians from all over New York State are travelling from near and far to meet with representatives to try to prevent additional, crippling budget cuts.    Here are some quick facts about why New York State Librarians feel they need to be there to stick up for us today:

  • There has been no change in the state funding formulas for libraries and library systems, as defined in Education Law in 1990.
  • According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics since 1990 inflation has reduced buying power by 59.63% ($100 in 2010 has the same buying power as $59.63 in 1990).
  • Library Aid makes up less than 1/10 of 1% of the state budget, yet libraries serve 57% of the state’s population  (10.6 million library card holders) or 75% of New York households
  • Library usage is up across the country and state. Visits to libraries have increased by 11% from 2005 to 2009 from 107 million to 120 million.   Circulation has also grown from 142 million items in 2005 to 160 million in 2009. (12% increase). Even though NYS population only grew by 1.3% between 2005 and 2009.

Learn more about what librarians are fighting for and what you can do to support them at the New York Library Association website. NYLA also offers a very easy way to contact your officials.

References

2011 NYLA Library Advocacy Day. (2011). . RCLS. Retrieved from http://www.rcls.org/images/uploads/misc/1298477618_NYLALibraryAdvocacyHandout-A20110301.pdf

Advocacy Talking Points. (2011). . New York Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.nyla.org/content/user_4/2011_talkingpoints.pdf

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Reflections on Reference Services – and Leadership

16 Jul

Reference Librarians are the key to reminding users of the necessity of libraries – no matter how many new technologies emerge, no matter how much more accessible information becomes, no matter how limited budgets may be.  Because of reference Librarians, libraries will always be relevant – there is no machine, application or recording that can fill the shoes of a helpful human working with you personally to meet your specific and sometimes complex information needs.  Because of this, reference librarians are one of the most important things about libraries.

What I learned from Tyckoson’s essay is how much leadership a person must possess and activate to be a good reference librarian.  A reference librarian needs to be the Miss Congeniality of the library.  They need to appear to be friendly and approachable, and they need to actually be motivated to track down the information requested by the user every time a question is asked – whether they are in a bad mood, they are tired, or this request is incredibly difficult.  That takes leadership.  It is their job to be the one person who will take an interest and search until the information is found.  Google will just shoot back anything that might approximate the search term if the real answer isn’t too easy to find on the web.  A friend or co-worker might be too busy to help, or too uninterested.  The Reference librarian has to always care and always connect the user to the information they are seeking.

A reference librarian also needs to constantly educate themselves about available resources over a vast array of subject matters, and build a personal collection of tools they can consult so that they can quickly respond to a request and make the information available at their fingertips.  The self-motivation required to stay abreast of new resources takes leadership.

A reference librarian needs to help market and promote the library within the community.  This serves to keep budget dollars flowing in during tough times, but it also increases the likelihood that everyone in the community will benefit from the library, because they are aware of all of the things the library can do for them.  To an extent, Samuel Green is correct that a good interaction with a reference librarian is powerful marketing.  However, this is not enough on its own.  People who never step foot in the library to ask a reference question a first time still need to be made aware of the usefulness of the library.  The persistence, creativity and positive attitude required to not only provide the best service to the community but also to effectively communicate it requires leadership, as well.

(Written in response to: “Chapter 12 – Reference Service: The Personal Side of Librarianship” by David A. Tyckoson in The Portable MLIS: Insights from the Experts[2008].)