Reflections on What a Librarian Looks Like

I spent the bulk of this week following the sturm und drang around the highly popular Slate article “This Is What a Librarian Looks Like.”  It shocked many (including the photographer, Kyle Cassidy!) to see such divisive thoughts over such a feel-good piece, a fine form of advocacy to the general public for libraries and librarians.  Initially, I was in the camp that wasn’t keen on the whole idea, but I’ve been swayed (somewhat, you’ll see why that is the case below) on the force of good this is for the profession.

Initially, I wanted to write a rebuttal to the whole thing, but the more I thought, the more I wanted to take in what I saw and heard, and attempt to make some sense of it, with the goal of bringing understanding to everyone why such a wonderful gesture of time and talent on the photographer’s part made some people so cross, as opposed to outlining why I think photographic pieces like this are wrong.

Let me reiterate so it is clear:  This is not any sort of rebuttal to the whole project.  After quite a bit of reflection and good conversation, I am convinced – perhaps not 100 percent – of the positive it can do, so I’m not going to bash people that put a lot of time, money, and work into making this happen.  The goal here is to bring understanding on the reasons why people may have been mad, and start a (hopefully productive and constructive) conversation on image in librarianship that goes past “this is what a librarian looks like.”

Who Cares What I Look Like?  Why Not Care What I Do? 

This was one of my first reactions – isn’t the best tool for library advocacy focusing on what the library does, not what the person behind the desk looks like? Furthering this thought for me was Buzzfeed posting “8 Book Historians, Curators, Specialists, and Librarians Who Are Killing It Online” this weekend – with nary a picture of actual librarians in sight, but pictures of their collections.  I found that more fascinating than Slate because I’m seeing actual library work on my screen, not how someone dresses or what body art they have.

Now, what Slate did was not just a photo spread – there were quotes from the pictured professionals on their philosophy of libraries, making it more than a model shoot.  And that’s good – it makes the focus a little less on appearance and image, and a little more on action.  This is one aspect where I wish I could have seen more (and I have an idea for this a little later on), but I recognize it’s a good start, and better than other media pieces on library image.

A final thought on this comes from several friends who remark that they love going to libraries when the people they see behind the desks, leading the children’s programs, cataloging books – “look like me.”  It’s small steps such as these that can help broaden diversity in our field (which is sorely needed, I think we can all agree on that), and I can’t knock down someone’s efforts in that regard.

Really? Again? More on This Whole Librarian Image Thing?

I’m still struggling to reconcile this.  I have a serious case of fatigue with all these “look at us, we’re not the stereotypical librarian!” articles.   In addition to Slate, we had another project on librarian image (with a very similar name) curated by librarian Bobbi Newman and Erin Downey Howerton, articles from Huffington Post, NBC, NPR, Bitch Magazine (more of asking the question of the damage of the librarian stereotype than presenting an alternative image) – and even a whole book!

I can see the need for advocacy about image – there is a whole Wikipedia page on librarians in popular culture, and most of it is not a pretty picture.  It helps that the conversation about librarian image is being taken our of our ivory towers and put at the feet of larger media outlets like Slate, NPR, etc.  (My Google search on “librarian image,” “librarian stereotypes,” and related terms revealed many more written works in our journals, but I wanted to focus on what was being said outside our profession.) But, I haven’t seen too many large-scale portrayals of librarians in a negative light (if I am wrong, please let me know in the comments) of late, so I ask the question: Is all this angst about how we look and trying to change it really necessary in 2014, when it looks like we’re doing pretty darn good for ourselves?

Two other related thoughts:

Why are we the only profession that has this hangup on image?  I worked in law firms for nine years, and outside of a few isolated incidents (here’s a recent one), there isn’t this big image campaign around what a lawyer looks like – or what a scientist looks like, or a janitor looks like, etc.   Why are librarians the ones so hung up on image – again, when there doesn’t seem to be too much in popular culture to work against us these days?

Is this purely an American thing, or a worldwide thing? I work with libraries in Europe, and as a result, keep my ear to the ground on the Continent’s library culture.  I hadn’t seen this kind of angst outside the United States which led me to wonder if this was just an American thing, but was recently alerted of some great scholarly articles on the topic in Eastern Europe and Singapore. If anyone knows of similar works outside the US, please provide citations; I am happy to read them.

The Diversity Question

And now for the touchy subject, that D word: Diversity. These complaints came from so many angles:

This is only what some librarians look like.   True, yes – it was which librarians were available at a certain time and place, and who Slate picked to feature. So most of this is actually out of our hands.  I know people that were left out that I felt deserved to be there, and I am sad that they were indeed left out.  What this begs for is a Part Two (and Three and Four, and Etc.) – and the Part Two is coming, as Kyle has kindly agreed to come back to us and photograph us in Vegas at the Annual Conference (yay! we haven’t scared him off!). Hopefully the logistics that led to this kind of concern are overcome for the next iteration (tip: the last day of conference is not really the best idea for this project, when most people are gone), and with proper advance planning, marketing, and association support, I feel confident this can happen and be better than the first.

We’re showing too diverse of a profession, which the reality does not reflect.  This was another one of my initial thoughts.  From recent participation in gender issues and diversity conversations, our racial/ethnic/gender makeup was not ideal. [Edit: as someone pointed out to me, it is still not ideal,  and my original word choice can make you think otherwise.  So let me be clear that diversity is an ongoing problem.]  Slate did a great job in showcasing all kinds of people that are librarians – but are they showcasing our profession through rose-colored glasses?  I think we can all agree that librarians are mostly white, and mostly female (except in management, where we are mostly male).  We have statistics from both ALA and Library Journal to back this up.  And as Andy Woodworth points out, it’s going to take a lot of work over a lot of time to bring this up to parity:

You would need the next two years worth of library science graduates to be exclusively African American in order to reach percentage parity (12.6%) with the United States population; you’d need the next two and a half years graduates to be exclusively Latino to achieve the same (16.4%). Offhand, it would take nine years of graduates to be exclusively male to meet US gender ratios (48.8%). (For my math, I’m using the ALA Diversity Counts statistics and the Library Journal Placements & Salaries for the number of graduates.) 

[Edit, regarding this next thought:  I apologize if this comes off as tone deaf and in support of institutional discrimination - that was not my intention.  This was an attempt to follow through an idea based on logic, completely hypothetical, and I admit it wasn't the most ideal.] So showing a richly diverse set of librarians is an inaccurate picture of the profession – perception does not meet reality, and it will take a long time to get there.  So why lie? Let’s present the hard truth as it is, and hope that we’ll get people that are stubborn enough to work hard to change it, in spite of feeling left out.

But, as Andy points out, perfection is an evil mistress that leaves us not seeing past the end of our noses (and here is where I realized how wrong my first thoughts were):

We are kidding ourselves if we reject positive articles out of hand when it’s going to take decades to reach the population diversity that we aspire to achieve. Everything is a step and there is no jumping to the end.  

I think of that cliche, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” We can’t undo the statistical evils that lie before us all at once, but we can start a conversation – which is better than nothing.  I (and probably others, too) was looking for an ideal that wasn’t the original intention, and being overly critical over a photo essay very well done – that has more potential (than the reach already) to improve an existing and urgent problem – really is just a waste of all of our times.  And if we can attract more men, more African-Americans, more transgender, etc. to the profession with something like this, than that’s more than fine by me.

That librarian stereotype of the bun and the cardigan? That’s pretty valid too.  I worry in our attempts to break the shushing, bun-and-cardigan wearing image that chases us for time eternal, we become the new stereotype.  Let’s be very careful of this.

My particular subset of librarianship was not featured.  I noticed this particular concern from those in technical services positions, who seem to fight a battle as long as time eternal for recognition – where are the catalogers? where are the systems librarians?  This struck a deep chord with me as a librarian in a nontraditional role – where were the librarians who work for vendors, or who do library-type work in non-librarian settings? (That being said, I do commend the inclusion of people from our parent association here – they’re not just all around wonderful folk; they provide a face to the management our professional association.)

At the same time, it can be hard to tell based on job titles what exactly these librarians do each day, and not everyone identified their exact title.  Some are very clear – “youth services librarian,”  others just identified themselves as “librarian.”  And job titles these days are a polyglot of duties (one of my favorites:  “Systems, Reference, Instruction, and Web Librarian”) – it’s so hard to tell everything.  And left out of all this are those of us who work in jobs that use library skills, but not in a standard library – those who work for vendors (me), archivists, trainers, etc.   If I had to pick something about Slate’s article that still irks me (and why I’m not 100 percent in love with it), it would be this – diversity extends to the types of jobs librarians have as well.  It’s important to show as many aspects to the profession as possible, especially when the tried and true library positions are becoming inversely proportional to the number of library school graduates. Again, this concern cries for more iterations of projects like this that go past one blog post or article (see the next section for some ideas that came to mind).

What Could Be Next

Projects like these really don’t serve us best in a one-and-done format that gets read, consumed, discussed, and eventually forgotten.  There needs to be a life to them, which is why I was happy to hear that Kyle wants to come to Annual Conference in Las Vegas to photograph us all again (and take even more photos). What I would hope to see is more photos, and more on librarian title and philosophy – juxtapose what we do and how we look.  I also purport that this entire project would make a great coffee table book, so let’s hope it gets published in print form soon. I’ll buy it.

Now, permit me to dream a bit big for this next idea.  When I was at the U.S. Open this past summer, the grounds featured a social wall – where you could see what everyone was tweeting, posting, and Instagramming about the tournament. (Make sure you click to see the full-size image.)

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Wouldn’t such a video wall , showing librarian photos and quotes on their philosophy of work and service, work well in our convention center spaces? We often share convention centers with other conferences (at ACRL 2013, it was the cheerleaders; at this past Midwinter, it was the Philadelphia Home Show).   As people may walk through our spaces to get to somewhere else (or if they’re lost), they receive a small taste of the librarian’s life – and hopefully leave with a deeper understanding of the work we do and how it goes past the books. That’s advocacy that effective, but not in-your-face that it makes people uncomfortable.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, let’s use it to our advantage!

(An aside:  one idea that came from this is the realization that many of us had crap head shots, after seeing Kyle’s beautiful portraits. Conveniently, Conference Services had a similar idea, and we’re working to possibly make this happen for ALA Annual. More to come.)

A Final Thought: Learning to Listen

I think what disturbed me most (and indeed, left me depressed for several days) was this perception of drama around the whole matter – mainly because I didn’t see it.   At least in my online social circles, I didn’t see colleagues spewing vitriol to other colleagues, name calling, or anything else that others have purported to taken place. (I also make it a rule not to read the comments on the internet, so I missed whatever was said directly on Slate’s site.)  Maybe I just follow the right people, I don’t know.

What I saw in my worldview, instead, was friends having a conversation – perhaps heated, but a conversation.   When I said “hey, I’m kind of over this librarian image stuff” (here, here, and here), I didn’t have friends and colleagues calling me a “hater” or similar names. We had a dialogue, where I listened to their POV, they (hopefully) listened to mine, and we left with some understanding, or at the very least, respect for the other’s views.  (In my case, it led to a change of mind and heart for me!) This leaves me wondering if what some bloggers called drama was invented for some other, self-serving means (translation: clickbait.) I truly hope and pray this was not the case.

For a profession that values intellectual freedom above all else, there seems to be this “toe the party line or GTFO” belief permeating itself throughout my colleagues.   Even those of us who express constructive criticism are accused of Drinking the Haterade (I was). This isn’t good, for there is as much value in listening (if not more) than talking – and I think if people stopped to listen, we could have put out the fire of agita.  That’s why I sat on this entire blog post for the better part of the week – I wanted to spend time listening, reflecting, taking in, understanding.  If I had sat down on Wednesday and written this, it would have been quite different – weak in argument, not well thought out, and open for tearing apart.

My friend Lisa Rabey puts it perfectly:

One of the biggest growth things I’ve been working on is swallowing my own pride and listening to people when they are critical of something I did and or said that has upset them and not taking it as an outright attack against my person. It’s hard to shut up and listen, but if I truly want to be a good ally, hell a good human, I (we) have to let the ego go. [Source]

I don’t think librarians do this all that well.   We take every project personally (when passion is good), but we have a hard time understanding that criticism of project is not criticism of person (when passion is bad). It’s not about us if someone doesn’t like what we do – and there’s opportunity for growth and understanding in those moments.  (Unless the criticism is purely personal in nature, and in that case, let’s all be ladies and gentlemen and take it offline.)

I challenge all of us to listen just as much as we talk – if not more.   It’s not easy – I struggle with it, too – who doesn’t like the spotlight? (And my partner can confirm that I am not the greatest of listeners. :) )  But I do think as we listen more, especially in topics of image, diversity, and stereotypes, we can learn so much more.   Everyone has a story to tell, and those stories are worthwhile.  We can only make progress if we have a balance between the two, not mandatory “listen to what I say for it is right” all the time.

I leave you with two quotes from Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings (the latter of which lives on my refrigerator) that I hope we can all live by as we move forward in not just this issue of librarian image, but all divisive and controversial issues:

The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.

A true scholar must not close her mind on any topic, no matter how certain she may feel.

Let’s leave our minds open and questioning, for that’s how our great thinkers, inventors, philosophers, achievers, etc. made things happen.

It’s Been Always Burning Since the World’s Been Turning: A February Reso(Revo)lution

Fun Fact: Did you know that 2014 is the 25th Anniversary of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire?  First, that makes me feel really old.  Second, I really wish he would do an update with the last 25 years of history. (Maybe when I go see him in concert this August…)

One of the reasons I haven’t been blogging here all that much is because I’ve been blogging for I Need a Library Job – regular blog posts are part of the requirement of being a Head Editor.   Why not take a look at the site and read a few of articles I’ve written (along with some of the other great ones by my INALJ colleagues)?

So you can imagine that this blog takes a bit of backseat when I have a blogging requirement elsewhere. :)

There’s another reason for the incentive to not blog that Andy Woodworth puts so perfectly:

It’s not that there isn’t anything interesting going on in the library world, just it’s not interesting to me. Or it involves the act of dragging old bones in new graves on topics that I feel have been talked to death (eBooks and libraries, for example). Or, most recently, if I can succinctly add my input to a conversation on something like Twitter or Tumblr, I do it there. When others have better insight or commentary on topics, it’s much more satisfying to share their posts or articles.

And, let’s face it: there are far fewer librarians writing these days online, most conspicuously in blogs. I remember the leading advice of 2006 being to start a blog to get noticed online; now, if I heard a professor say that to their students, I would tell the students to flee. Even the Annoyed Librarian has been relegated to writing about last week’s news that was sent (I guess they can’t be bothered to find it) to them or “interesting” comments in previous entries. For myself, it’s slim picking for content or commentary without sounding like I’m recycling previous entries. [Source]

It is easier and no doubt more convenient for me to say what I want to say in the shorter form arenas, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr. Writing blog posts takes Time, and there’s only so many hours in day after work and sleep for personal (leisure or otherwise) pursuits. But there is also much to be said about the lost(?) art of blogging – heck, our INALJ articles help brought us to 3.75 million page views by the end of December 2013. So I have to think: What gets me back into doing my own personal blogging, especially as I am launching into a job search in 2014 and need to have a handy professional writing outlet of my own to showcase to prospective employers?

Perhaps a narrower focus is in mind. Yes, this is a library blog, but trying to be the be-all end-all library blog is tiring, and shows lack of focus.  Because of my current place of employment’s social media policies, there are also some topics I really can’t talk about, as much as I would want to.   Thus, my desire is to use this space as my petri dish for what I want to learn more about in the coming year.   In particular, I am focusing on three pet projects for this space in 2014:

  • Gender issues (and related topics of diversity and intersectionality).  This should come as no surprise, as I have been on two panels related to gender in the past three months, and am active in the #libtechgender and LibTechWomen communities.  While I need to listen more in the library community in this arena, I also need to be ready to speak out on it more – an idea that came to me after being called out by a friend of my family (in a very not nice way) about the diversity in librarianship.  I need to show non-librarians that yes, we are working on being more inclusive, and listening to my peers on ways we can do so as we move from storytelling to action.
  • Technology.  I need to broaden my coding toolbasket and web design skills.  Period.
  • Advocacy for Youth Services.   I bet that one is leaving you scratching your head, because I’m not any sort of youth services librarian (though I have been told I would pass for one easily with my loud voice).  Many of my friends (and a family member!) are youth services librarians, and I admire the work they do. In speaking with them, I realize that it often does not get the respect it deserves, because it’s often viewed as “not sexy,” “women’s work” or “soft work.”  In truth, it’s very important work – the library is the third space (outside of home and school) where children can find a place of community and family.   But here is where I need to learn more before diving in deep (with guaranteed mistakes in the results:   Children’s/youth librarians:  What blogs/listservs/miscellaneous resources should I be reading?  What are talking points I can use when confronted with the prejudices that youth services work faces?

Of course, these are not new; just like the song above, they’ve “been always burning since the world’s been turning.” (See how good I tied all that together there? :) )  It is my belief that as an outside approaching all these issues from a somewhat outsider perspective, putting the “librarianship at 30,000 feet” spin on it, serves to inform, educate (including myself – remember that whole “I’m pretty good at making mistakes thing” I said above? :), and empower.

And perhaps, even in these three very divergent areas, we can find consensus, something this profession so desperately needs.


ALA’s Code of Conduct, the Supreme Court, and those Guys from Duck Dynasty

Yet more on ALA’s Statement of Professional Concerns, aka the new Code of Conduct! (And a chance for me to actually use my B.A. in Political Science.)

By now, you have probably seen Will Manley’s critique about the code of conduct (EDIT: as of 2 January 2014 the original post, and Will’s entire blog, have been made private). One of Will’s arguments:

This Policy Can Have a Chilling Effect on Intellectual Freedom:The policy states: “Speakers are asked to frame discussions as openly and inclusively as possible and to be aware of how language or images may be perceived by others. ”   This is a very scary requirement.  It sounds an awful lot like…if you offend anyone you can be hauled before the Director of Conference Services and asked to recant.  Shock, satire, and hyperbole are all rhetorical strategies that speakers employ to shake an audience out of normative thinking in order to consider alternative points of view, but shock, satire, and hyperbole can also be very offensive.

In a rebuttal from Matthew Ciszek, Matthew points out the following:

I wholeheartedly agree that there is a fine line between intellectual freedom/free speech and harassment. The Statement was written not to squelch intellectual freedom and free speech, but to remind Conference attendees that intellectual freedom and free speech are never entirely free.  I cannot yell “FIRE!” in a crowded auditorium and claim free speech as a legal defense. 

What Matthew states sounds very much like common sense, but was in fact part of a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Schenck v. United States concerned the Espionage Act of 1917, and was the first time the Court defined the First Amendment.  Schenck and his colleague, Elizabeth Baer, mailed circulars to draft-eligible men encouraging them to fight the draft through peaceful means and not to join the draft – “do not submit to intimidation.”  Schenck was charged with conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act via insubordination and obstruction of recruitment.  In a unanimous decision, the Court ruled as follows:

Words which, ordinarily and in many places, would be within the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment may become subject to prohibition when of such a nature and used in such circumstances a to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils which Congress has a right to prevent. The character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done….The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. It does not even protect a man from an injunction against uttering words that may have all the effect of force.

In other words, we have the right to free speech, but we do not have the right to be immune from its consequences, and the policy is a reminder that we should be mindful of this fact.  In short – context matters, and the Supremes tell us so in this ruling.* I’d like to think that Conference Services will have a balance test in place to protect free speech but ensure that those who bring concerns to the forefront aren’t belittled or marginalized – and like the Code of Conduct, it will have many iterations as times and cultural mores changes. (In fact, the lack of specifics on how complaints are to be handled and offenses to be punished is one of the problems I have with the policy as it is.)

The Court’s decision was upheld in Whitney v. California, where Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes stated in the Court’s concurring opinion “it must remain open to a defendant to present the issue whether there actually did exist at the time a clear danger; whether the danger, if any, was imminent, and whether the evil apprehended was one so substantial as to justify the stringent restriction interposed by the legislature” and the Court’s majority opinion indicated “that a State. . .may punish those who abuse this freedom by utterances. . .tending to. . .endanger the foundations of organized government and threaten its overthrow by unlawful means.”

A more modern parallel would be that whole Phil Robertson/Duck Dynasty thing.  Did Phil Robertson have the right to air his beliefs on homosexualty in GQ, as much as an abomination that many thought his beliefs were? Yes. Did he have the right to be immune from consequence from his employer for that speech?  No.   Schenck and Whitney are reminders of this.  (Another example?  Justine Sacco, a PR exec who was fired over a tweet making light of AIDS in Africa. Again, she has the right to free speech, but not the right to remain immune to the consequences of that speech.)

This policy does not prohibit intellectual freedom – but reminds us that word and deed are not without consequences.  Could this lead to self-censorship (perhaps in an extreme) from speakers and others?  Yes.  What I hope it does is provide a reminder, give people pause to think about what they say before they say it – which can, in the end, lead to more open, honest dialogue.

*The future of Schenck:  Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who issued the opinion in Schenck, attempted to refine his thoughts in Abrams v. United States one year later to offer a narrower view of free speech that isn’t protected under the First Amendment: “speech that produces or is intended to produce clear and imminent danger that it will bring about forthwith … substantive evils.”  The “clear and present danger” test upheld in Whitney v. California lasted until 1969, when Brandenburg v. Ohio ruled that “[f]reedoms of speech and press do not permit a State to forbid advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” – in layman’s terms, it’s free speech unless it’s going to cause a riot.   It broadened the argument of free speech and while it did not overrule Schenck, it did weaken its original argument. 

More on Schenck v. United States and its successors. (The links are from a documentary on the Supreme Court and provide some interesting context on what happened to the players in these cases after the rulings were issued.) 

Schenck v. United States (1917)

Abrams v. United States (1919)

Whitney v. California (1927)

Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969)

#libtechgender: ALA’s Code of Conduct (Mainly)

On the #libtechgender front, some very interesting thoughts (of which I wholly admit I am late to the party on, at least in this space).

ALA Releases a Statement of Appropriate Conduct for Conferences

At long last, the American Library Association has a Statement of Appropriate Conduct for their conferences, something that many of us who are active in the tech community and active in issues of gender have asked about for a long time.   Mind you, it’s not a perfect statement; those of us on the latest episode of the T is for Training Podcast (we discuss it in the first 15 minutes) pointed out a few questions/concerns/thoughts we had about it:

  • Where and how do certain groups fit in to this policy; i.e press, those who are just “lobbyconning” (visiting without paying for a full registration). We need a better definition of what “participants” in the policy means, because someone will challenge that definition.
  • A general sense of disbelief, based on certain activities that are called out in the policy, that someone had to have done that/talked about/thought about doing it (this was around the provision prohibiting yelling at or threatening speakers) that it had to be included.  More than once, the statement that “we’re all adults” came out, and that even if we are all adults, this had to be said.
  • Conference Services promises to make certain information, such as how to report events and contact information for local law enforcement, security, etc. – but how will this be done.  (We think it will be the website; but Maurice suggests putting this information on the back of your conference badge; which I think is a great idea).

It’s a first pass, and it’s a good first pass – makes it clear what behavior will and will not be tolerated at conference, but also allows for flexibility in interpretation.  You can’t plan for every little nuance in a situation – sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and see what happens, and then deal with the aftermath.  (I admit, this is not a good way to plan, but sometimes it is the only way. We are neither clairvoyant nor omnipotent.)

The code doesn’t spell out specific punishments (i.e., do X and you’re banned from all ALA conferences for life), but provides clear resources for those who feel unsafe, harassed, etc.  This was one of the problems people had at NY Comic-Con this year, when a group used false press credentials from Sirius XM Radio to attend and sexually harass female attendees – they went to security and were just given lip service (as it appears that after the first report, this group of malcontents was still there).  At least we know clearly who to go to when problems arise (which I hope never happens, but it’s a matter of if, not when), and in my experience dealing with ALA Conference Services, I have confidence we won’t see the response that my friends at NYCC saw to their claims.

One important distinction:  A Code of Conduct is not a Big Brother policy.  It does not prohibit you from having fun (adult and otherwise) at a conference.  I saw a few comments in certain social circles (particularly the ALA Think Tank, which could do wonderful things for being an incubator for great ideas in librarianship but pretty much devolves into arguments that hurt feelings the majority of the time*) making this assumption.   A Code of Conduct allows for safe spaces, for people to be comfortable and have fun without having to worry about their personal safety being threatened.  The idea of this code is to call out the worst of the worst behavior and let people know that it will Not Be Tolerated.  Coral Sheldon-Hess (linked below) brings up an important aspect of all humor: context.   In the right context, a dirty joke can be funny – when all parties (joke teller, joke listeners) are comfortable.  When you remove that comfort level, and the right context for the joke, it just becomes creepy.  That’s where the Code of Conduct comes in – to provide a baseline level of context for what will and will not be tolerated.  And if your ideas of fun involve making people feel unsafe, threatened, harassed, disgusting, etc. – quite frankly, we don’t want you in our spaces.

Additional thoughts on this new Code of Conduct throughout the Internet, from the people that took a much more active role in helping to create it (and I am grateful to them for being a part of this process):

#libtechgender: Our Internet Librarian Panel and Its Aftermath

I attended Internet Librarian for the first time this year, to participate in the Library Technology and Gender panel, with some great people to talk about the Gordian knot of technology and gender.  The success of a great panel is how it lives on post-conference, and this panel, thanks to the good work of some of its panelists is doing just that.

First, some coverage on the issue (wrapups of the panel and otherwise, some from the LITA Forum) from around the internet:

Second, some future plans:

  • If you haven’t seen Lisa Rabey’s digital clearinghouse of links, etc. on the issue, go to there. (I’ll wait. :) )
  • Also included on that page is information about LibTechWomen, an informal group started by several wonderful people as a safe space to talk about these issues.  While we have an IRC chat room that is open 24/7, we will be starting regular chats on 6 December, hosting them every Friday at 2 PM EST.  All are welcome and encouraged to come with an open mind.
  • There are plans to host a panel discussion (of which I hope to be part of) in January at the ALA Midwinter Meeting on the matter.
  • Lisa proposed a long form version of our panel as a pre conference for Code4Lib 2014.

And because I can’t think of anywhere else to put it, you need to watch this week’s episode of the web series The Brain Scoop, in which host Emily Graslie (a pioneer for STEM education and digital museum education in her own right) reads emails she has received about the show that will break your heart.

And Finally, Some Exciting Professional News

You may know that I have been working with I Need a Library Job since March, as Head Editor of various pages.  Earlier this month, our Founder and Supreme Genius**, Naomi House, appointed some Volunteer Coordinators to help with recruiting, retention and (maybe) training the site’s volunteers, and I am one of them (because hey, I don’t have enough as it is to do anyway).  Our initial launch has been (mostly) smooth, and it’s given me an insight into a possible new career: recruiting.   So if you want to volunteer with INALJ and help people find library jobs, just contact us!

* Although, now that I have certain people from that group that were the biggest bullies blocked on Facebook, or they have blocked me, I’m debating returning, since the space seems safer.   Jury still out, though.

** That’s not her real title. I made it up.  Though she should get it printed on business cards. :)



Help Make an ALA Division Awesome!

Librarians, want to help me with a project to make one of ALA’s divisions better?

I’m doing some work for the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) Review Committee on what works and doesn’t work for RUSA, and we’re looking to gather some data on a very informal level (that will be supplemented by a survey) – think of it as a listening tour.  If any of you current or former RUSA members and wouldn’t mind sending me some of your thoughts via email? We’re just looking for why you joined RUSA, how you got involved, what successes/failures you may have had in getting involved, and if you did not renew, why you made that decision.

All information will be kept confidential. Comment here if you are interested.

2013 Presentation Wrap-Up (And a Preview to 2014)

So unless something comes up between now and the end of the year, I think I can call this year in professional development over. And I made improvements since last year:

1. Three formal presentations (Code4Lib Virtual Lightning TalksACRLNY Comic-Con).
2. Led two panel discussions (ThatCamp Libraries and Drupal Camp CT)
3. Participated as a panelist in one panel discussion (Internet Librarian).
4. Led one panel on a podcast (Circulating Ideas podcast).

(Now you all know why I didn’t have much time to blog! :) )

Of course, anything is better than 2012, where I had a total of zero speaking engagements.   Which was okay – I had a lot going on in my personal life, and when that happens, sometimes you just have to take a backseat, lest you risk burnout.

This kind of professional development is something I take seriously – being outside a traditional library, it helps me to not lose touch with my colleagues and industry developments.  It sends a strong signal to library land as a whole that I am using my degree and can be a strong advocate for the profession outside of Ye Olde Echo Chamber.  (Well, to a fault – we all know third time was not the charm for me in getting elected to ALA Council.) It also allows me to pursue interests outside of my day job, giving me freedom (to a fault) to share my opinions.   I’m looking to make a job change in 2014, and I hope the groundwork I laid this year reflects well on my status as a job prospect.

What do I have planned for next year?  Well, for starters, I’d like to double what I did this year. (Overambitious one, I am. :) ).  I’d also like to get back into professional writing – although I am an editor for a journal, it would be fun to see my name in print on an article.   Most important to me is the desire to narrow my focus – rather than be all over the place with topics, pick just one and work to position myself as an “emerging expert” in that field – in particular, gender issues in libraries and library technology.   It’s been in the back of my mind ever since Lean In, but the inspiring and empowering panel we had at Internet Librarian on Library Technology and Gender (and Lisa Rabey’s great call to action to keep the conversation going), energizes me to take the torch up and work with Lisa and other like minded individuals to carry it forward as my raison d’être – to be active in these discussions, rather than reactive.  To make it a part of the daily conversation, and not just when something bad happens to someone.

This doesn’t mean that I leave my other interests – usability, Drupal, programming, advocacy for youth services, etc. – aside.  Rather, I hope to make those a part of the gender conversation.  When I was in 7th grade, I remember doing several thematic units – topics that were somehow incorporated into every class.  In particular, I remember one on endangered species – and the classwork on endangered species wasn’t limited to science class. We read literature about it in English, reviewed the geography of endangered species, and although I can’t remember it, I’m pretty sure we did something on the topic in mathematics too.  I want to take that concept of the thematic unit and apply it to my professional life, with gender studies at the core.

There are many opportunities to connect on this issue – Lisa lists several on her post – but I’d love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, etc. on making this every librarian’s issue, and not just that of a select few. How can we make gender issues part of the daily librarian conversation?  (And please, keep it civil.)

Breaking: Southern CT State University Library School Loses ALA Accreditation

Now that I have a moment to sit still, I was all ready to talk about presenting at New York Comic-Con, the Internet Librarian conference, I Need a Library Job, and all sorts of other things – but then late yesterday afternoon, the news from WNPR radio (yes, that IS the callsign of our local NPR affiliate in CT) that Southern CT State University’s library school lost its accreditation from the American Library Association trumped all of the above.

This now means that there is no accredited library school program in my home state of Connecticut, and there is only one accredited public library school in New England, the University of Rhode Island. Initially, accreditation was withdrawn in July of this year, but the school appealed, hence the news of the withdrawal only coming out to the public now. Current students can complete their coursework within 2 years and still receive a degree from an ALA-accredited institution, and degrees that alumni have will still be considered “ALA-accredited” degrees.

What is accreditation?  It does not mean anything akin to what the current president of the CT Library Association, Richard Conroy, said to WNPR:

“It’s the difference between going to a prestigious university like Yale or Harvard or a community college,” Conroy said. “There’s nothing wrong with community colleges but if you’re a company with a high level person with professional qualifications then you look for a person that goes to a school that’s been accredited.”

It’s actually a professional certification that indicates that a school is meeting proper standards for education in library and information science.   A library school without accreditation is like a teacher without a teaching certificate, or an attorney who has not passed the bar exam. (Credit to commenter on original article for this comparison.)

Jill Hurst-Wahl, faculty at the Syracuse University Information School, wrote a simple and effective primer on ALA Accreditation on her blog after a conversation we all had on a recent episode of the T is for Training podcast.  While it should not replace what is on the ALA Office of Accreditation website, here’s some basic points to know:

  • Accreditation is a voluntary process.
  • Accreditation is based on both self-review and peer review.
  • Both the American Library Association’s Office of Accreditation and External Review Panels participate in the process of re-accreditation.
  • Schools can be also put on conditional accreditation (which SCSU was on since 2010) to be given the time to make recommended improvements. Currently, five schools are on conditional status, but they are still fully accredited.

And one final and very important point:

If you have an ALA accredited library degree (e.g., MLS, MSLIS, MLIS), it means that you received your degree from a library program that has gone through an intensive review and that it meets appropriate standards for quality and integrity.  It doesn’t mean that you attended the same classes as a person in another program.  It doesn’t mean that you learned the same things as someone from another program.  It does mean that ALA found that you program met its standards.

My partner received his MLS degree from SCSU, and from what he shared with me, this news does not come as a surprise to either one of us.  There was a history of poor communication between administration and students (which resulted in my partner getting grandfathered out of a capstone project requirement for graduation) and his belief that the classes were too “easy.”  We can go around and around about that point about library school being too “easy” for a master’s degree program until we’re dizzy, but from some of the work he showed me, this school was a clear case of being too easy.

It seems that problems with the program go as far back as 2003 (!!) and nothing of this nature was done until now.  SCSU, in their appeal, picked up on two points:

  1. They were not properly notified of the decision in a timely manner (no later than 7 days) after the July reaccreditation meeting.  This failed as ALA’s guidelines actually allow for notification no later than 10 business days after the meeting, which happened, along with acknowledgment of receipt of the decision from the school.
  2. The lack of fixed rules for accreditation, the “unrealistic” deadline for changes to be implemented, and the lack of information to support ALA’s decision.  All three of these failed.  First, ALA notes standard I.3 – “Within the context of these Standards each program is judged on the degree to which it attains its objectives” – puts the burden on the school to make its own self-assessment, quite clear on the rules for accreditation. Standard I.3 also comes into play in point 2 of the appeal: “In accord with the mission of the school, clearly defined, publicly  stated, and regularly reviewed program goals and objectives form the essential frame of reference for meaningful external and internal evaluation.”  SCSU, in their plan for annual review of the program, meets this requirement – and thus the only people they can blame for unrealistic deadlines is possibly themselves. Finally, while SCSU provided information to show that they were meeting their goals, there were important points missing from these plans (particularly related to student assessment), that the Office of Accreditation needed in order to make an appropriate assessment.

Finally, from a public relations standpoint, the school handled this very poorly. The WNPR article asserts that as of this Thursday, students were not notified by the school of decision. I’m left wondering how much was communicated to them in the entire process (though knowing what I know about the lack of communication, I’m not surprised if it wasn’t much or nothing at all).   It’s unfair to them – as well as faculty and staff – to find out from a posting from the local NPR station, and not directly from the dean. A loss of accreditation leads to difficulties in finding work and the rest of one’s professional future.  To have an announcement treated in such a capricious way shows a lack of respect for the careers and livelihoods of your students and faculty.   If I was at SCSU, I would give serious thought about working or continuing my studies there.  (Though if any alumni/current students can prove me otherwise on this point, please do so.)

(On the other side of public relations and crisis management, my undergraduate school’s wrestling program was put on suspension for possible hazing this week, and every single alum received an email about the matter. Mind you, we’re a small Division III school, not some athletics powerhouse.  Of course, this opens up the can of worms about where our priorities lie in higher education, but I am not going there right now.  That’s an argument for another time and place.)

It’s sad to lose a great program in New England, one of the most affordable.  But I am somewhat heartened to see that our professional associations taking LIS education seriously, and hope that this move sends some shock waves through other schools, giving them the opportunity to critically review their programs to make sure they produce the best librarians/information scientists/information professionals/whatever else we are calling ourselves this week out there.

On New Librarianship, Technology, and Innovation

My July has been taken up with the Syracuse University iSchool New Librarianship Master Class taught by R. David Lankes. It has been some time since I took (and admittedly, finished) a MOOC. In my limited experience, this has been one of the most engaging, something to savor like a fine wine or cheese. (Which is why I am glad Mr. Lankes told us that there’s no hard and fast deadline for the course unless we are completing it for credit!)

The core statement of the MOOC is this:  The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities. 

This part in bold is what I want to focus on today, particularly the “improve society” and “facilitating knowledge creation” portions.

In new librarianship, knowledge creation is not static, nor limited to the library’s collections. Community members can and should have a say in the knowledge that comes out of the library.  They need to take an active role.  The rise of the makerspace, in all its forms, is proof of knowledge creation by and for the community.

I love that no two makerspaces look alike.  At the Detroit Public Library’s HYPE Makerspace, teens can get bike repair guidance alongside knitting and sewing lessons.  At Chattanooga (TN) Public Library, their makerspace is focusing on the Summer of Code. Westport (CT) Public Library has a 3D printer and a mini maker faire in their makerspace.  And while Darien (CT) Public Library doesn’t use the exact term, their Digital Media Lab could also be called a makerspace. In new librarianship, the makerspace is the shot in the arm the library needs.  It provides those tools to create knowledge through conversation, and gives those who use the library the means to contribute to it, to be a part of it.  It provides a sense of ownership and pride by the community the library serves, and the library itself.

This idea of creating knowledge and getting right to the community’s needs is not limited to institutions.  Many individual librarians over the past year or two struck out to form their own consulting or teaching services.  For example, e-book digital “publisher” (I use that term loosely but it’s the best I can do) announced today on their blog that one of their co-founders (and my dear friend) Andromeda Yelton, is leaving the company full time to pursue self-employment as a coding instructor for libraries. Andromeda wants to be a part of a very necessary conversation for libraries, and I wish her all the best.

Her recent news brings me to the other part of that statement – “improve society.”  While this is not only done with our shared values of learning, openness, intellectual honesty, and intellectual freedom, the one means that we can improve society is through leadership and innovation – something Andromeda is doing by leaving the security of full time work to do in her new teaching role.  It takes guts to take the self-employment route. I have thought about it, but because of my current life situation, it would not work for me right now.  She is what this profession needs, and more of it!

But, you don’t have to be a leader and innovator by taking these gigantic life-changing steps.  You can bloom where you are planted and be a leader in what you do best.  Being just the worker bee is unacceptable in new librarianship.  Since I don’t work in a library (but still hold the MLS), I struggle with the question of “how can I be a library leader when I don’t work in a library?” on a daily basis.  My solution – a hacked up with duct tape combination of intense professional development outside my job duties with integration where applicable – isn’t perfect, and I am at that point where the duct tape is falling off and not resticking when I put it back in place. Which means I need to figure out the next solution.  Have I bloomed enough in my current job that I’ve turned into a weed?

I also think about my friends in youth services when I think about the “bloom where you are planted” idea.  (First of all, if you don’t hang with youth services folk, you should.  You will not meet a bunch of more passionate, engaging people who care deeply about the kids and parents they serve. They know the influencer role they have in their kids’ lives and rise to the occasion each day to meet it.) Sometimes my YA librarians get a bad rap because what they do is soft work – sometimes called “women’s work” in the gender and librarianship literature I read.

(That brings me to an important point in the MOOC that almost made me stand up and shout PREACH IT FATHER DAVID: do not innovate for innovation’s sake.  Remember that it all goes back to the community.  Here is where I worry about makerspaces – what purpose do 3D printers serve?   Is this technology what the community needs, or are we falling into “ooh shiny” syndrome?)

Illinois youth librarian Julie Jurgens puts it so well:

Perhaps it is just my sensitive ego at work, but I feel like the librarian bloggers who work with children and teens and who write primarily about programs don’t get the recognition they deserve. Storytime blogs such as So TomorrowAwesome StorytimeMel’s Desk,Playing by the Book, Tiny Tips for Library FunBryce Don’t Play, and Storytiming provide real, concrete advice for creating worthwhile programming, which should be the bread and butter of libraries. If all of us wrote more book reviews and less about the programs we created using those books, or why we create the programs we do, perhaps we’d get more notice. 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, and when we do review books, it’s always with an eye to How will I use this with a group of children? (Source)

When I look through the lens of new librarianship, this is innovation for the community at its core, and nary a 3D printer or iPad in sight.

I encourage all – whether or not you are taking the course – to follow the New Librarianship Master Class conversation over on Twitter at #newlib.  There are change agents and radical ideas incubating in this course.

Further reading:  Some other blog posts on the New Librarianship Course…

ALA Annual Conference: The Rants and the Raves

ALA_2013_Chicago_Logo_FINAL_CLR_0And now for the obligatory end of conference wrap-up post, as I have just returned from the American Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago, IL.  I was very excited to attend this year’s conference, as a family obligation (my niece’s first birthday party) prevented me from going to Annual the last time it was in the Windy City (2009).

This was a different conference for me as I did not spend so much time in sessions as I did actually running sessions and other administrativa.  It was still a productive and fun conference, nonetheless.

And so, with apologies to one of my favorite columns in the Sunday Seattle Times, here are my Rants and Raves, ALA Annual Edition

RANT.  The shuttle buses.  There were too few shuttle buses for too many librarians, more of whom were depending on the buses than in past conferences due to location of McCormick Place Convention Center vis-a-vis the conference hotels.   They never seemed to run fast or frequent enough, and being stuck on the end of a route made it tough sometimes to get a bus – since they showed up at your door already full!  I do realize that this infrequency was a cost-cutting move, and can respect that in tough economic times for the Association.  I do wish more creative ways of making sure we all get to where we need to go, safely and on time, with little cost, could be found for the next Chicago meeting.

RAVE. ALA Conference Services.  The week of the conference, these hardworking folk were thrown a curveball of amazing proportions – the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, and the victory parade was scheduled for the first day of conference right in the heart of the city.  As a sports fan and someone who experienced a victory parade in her backyard not too long ago (Giants 2012 Super Bowl win), I could have cared less about the parade – but for some librarians, 2 million Blackhawks fans + 20k librarians = fate worse than death.  Conference Services did a wonderful job keeping us updated as to contingency plans and taking an active role to make sure that we were all able to get where we needed to go.

RANT. Getting home from Chicago.   My travel companion and I had a bit of a late night adventure getting home from the city, which you can read about here. I’m taking it as a sign that maybe I should not have left the city….

RAVE. ALA CraftCon.  This was our fourth ALA CraftCon gathering, and my favorite thus far.   I added three sessions to allow for more people to attend, and even did drop in “getting started with crafting online” sessions for people that wanted to craft but didn’t know where to start.   I had great turnout all three days, even my “experiment” day (Saturday morning).   There’s still some work that needs to be done – I have to emphasize the BYO Craft part, or possibly add some make and take crafts. (I got lucky on the last day when my friend Steve Teeri, who runs the Detroit Public Library HYPE Teen Center, left some paper crafts on Maker Monday!)


Getting our craft on Sunday Afternoon

RANT.  My hotel.  I know that I got what I paid for (which wasn’t much), but my hotel room was in a older building with an odd layout.  The bed felt too large for the room, there wasn’t enough counter space, one elevator was out of service on the last two days of the conference, and the wifi had a very bad habit of not working.  Spending less on the hotel meant I could stay in the city longer, but perhaps next time I will splurge more on the hotel and spend less time in the city.   I shouldn’t have to mooch wifi off of the Hyatt across the street when I have it in my own hotel.

RAVE.  The EveryLibrary Advocacy 101 session.  EveryLibrary is the first, and only, library super Political Action Committee (Super PAC) in the nation.   They provide tools for libraries to work most effectively with voters and elected officials to bring light to library issues – to build “financial and tactical support to ensure that local library initiatives pass at the ballot box.”  Rather than fight our elected officials and the system, we can work with the system and our elected officials to make our voice heard – and EveryLibrary can help you do that. I don’t know why more people attended, because the advice John presented is extremely important.


EveryLibrary Executive Director John Chrastka


Some factors that motivate voters – including the weather! 

And a final, but most important, RAVE.  The people.  The week of ALA, I was bullied by several librarians in an online Facebook group (the ALA Think Tank) all because I stepped in to say “hey, I don’t think this is appropriate” (this was on a post about hooking up in the Craigslist sense at conferences).  My words were twisted and taken out of context, and I was forced to apologize – for what, I still do not know.  As a result, I left the Think Tank – which made me sad because some people in there do great work, but I just couldn’t take the junior high, cool kids lunchtable, frat house attitude anymore.   This bullying left me scared to go to ALA.  I was willing to take a financial hit and cancel my entire trip, out of fear of the reception I would receive.  Obviously, I didn’t go through with that plan – and I’m glad I did.  The love I received from my fellow librarians made me feel so much better about my colleagues.  From those who came up to me to say they were sorry to see what happened to me, to express support for taking the action that I did, even just to say hi and compliment me on my plethora of tiny hats – you don’t know how happy you made me feel.  And for that, thank you – from the bottom of my heart.

See you at Midwinter in Philadelphia!


The Value of the MLS: Time To Do Something About It.

My friend Matthew Ciszek posted this on Facebook recently:

Instead of bitching about how horrible our experiences in library school were and how the MLS or MLIS degree did nothing to prepare us for the “real world” of librarianship, I would love to see my colleagues in the field do some work to change this paradigm. 

Have you ever sought out teaching opportunities at a library school? Volunteered for the ALA Committee on Accreditation? Even *know* anyone on the committee? Have you joined ALISE and tried to network with LIS educators on how to improve the profession and the study of librarianship and information science? Been involved in your library school or ischool alumni association? Written a letter to key faculty or the dean of the school? Stormed campus and demanded change?

I know all too well how easy it is to be an “armchair quarterback” but the only way our profession will reinvent itself and thrive is when we professional librarians take an active and strong interest in making this happen. Lets all “make this happen” together.

A few thoughts (with a lot of questions) come to mind:

First, I did not know the ALA’s Committee on Accreditation (COA) took volunteers.   If I was not so busy as I am already, I would probably volunteer to be on it.  And piggybacking on that, I remember when COA came to visit Pratt when I was a student there.  The committee members took the time to speak with students and they truly loved our feedback.   I wonder – do they speak with alumni as well?  Should that be part of the accreditation process?

(I also was an ALISE member a few years ago, back when I was a student and my philosophy was JOIN ALL THE ORGS BECAUSE STUDENT RATES ARE CHEAP.)

There are schools that are truly looking to evolve and change, so the picture doesn’t look totally bleak.   The first that comes to mind is the University of Washington’s iSchool.  I am often jealous of the opportunities that my friend that were students had there.  I have also noticed a change in Pratt’s offerings and attitudes towards LIS education in the past six years. When I was a student, you can tell clearly from course offerings that they were a pure L-school.  We did not have to prepare a theis or capstone project since our dean did not feel that the work was worth it until we (librarians) were paid better.   Since I left, our dean worked hard to offer more in digital humanities and cultural heritage – hiring faculty in these key areas and changing course offerings. I was sad to see some instructors go, but understood why – the profession had changed, but their syllabi didn’t.

I’m also lucky enough to still live close by to my library school that I can remain involved, but what about those students that do not – or who did a purely online degree?  My school did not offer any online courses (both the library school and the institute as a whole – very hard to offer online classes in a school based in studio art and architecture!) so I always felt more connected to the community, since I had a physical representation of my education.  What about students at Drexel, or Rutgers, or San Jose – any school whose classroom amounts to pixels on a screen?

Is it also time for profession-wide licensing, as this response to Matthew’s post hints? 

 It shouldn’t be so difficult for new grads to find employment, but I don’t think that it’s entirely fair to lay blame at the feet of library schools when every job at every institution comes with a different set of requirements and expectations, and employers are in the position to be unbending on what they want from applicants. It’s hard to prepare students for a job market that has no clear or stable direction.

And more from another commenter on the identity crisis on the MLS:

I have to say that although a lot of the threads on ALATT [ALA Think Tank] are helpful and interesting, the latest thread about job titles was really disappointing. I was appalled by the number of colleagues who believe that you are a librarian if you simply “feel” or “think” you are, regardless of education.

Is the solution for a profession that has different requirements at different schools a national licensing exam?   Of course, this is the role the COA plays now, but does it need to be more stringent?  A solution may lie across the pond.

The United Kingdom equivalent of the ALA, CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), publishes the Professional Knowledge and Skills Base.  This document places ethics at the center of the skill set, and then breaks down skills into two groups – one of profession-specific, and one more generic skill set.   Some of the skills that are covered include:

  • Literacies and Learning
  • IT and Communication
  • Knowledge and Information Management
  • Research Skills
  • Leadership and Advocacy

There is a similar document, the Standards of Accreditation, on the COA’s website, but my research found that this has not been updated since 2008(If there is an updated Standards somewhere, please do point me to it.)

The question about the licensure exam may find an answer in CILIP’s Chartership process.  Participants in the Chartership process are required to find a mentor and build a portfolio to show continued coursework, speaking engagements, writings, and membership in the profession.  (My friend Jo Alcock went through the chartership process last year and details the process on her blog.)  Many library schools use a similar process as part of their degree requirements but it’s patchwork at best.  My friends at the UW iSchool and at Southern Connecticut State University had to do a portfolio for graduation, but my sister at Rutgers did not appear to, and my library school did not require a portfolio until this year.  I remember bringing it up to students when I was graduating and I was told it was “too much work” and that the Practicum course that was required for some, but not all, students filled that need!

Clearly, we know there is a problem with our skill sets and figuring out who is, and is not, a librarian.  What role can the COA play in figuring this out?  What role can we play in finding a solution?

(More to come – I just discovered that the Circulating Ideas podcast did a “state of the MLS” episode!)