Monday, December 29, 2008

Farewell 2008

A fare-the-well to 2008. The past week has been hectic. Along with the move (the movers came today and my mom is now sitting at home in an empty apartment), my wallet with my entire life in it (including social security card, credit cards and cash to tide me over to next payday) was snatched on the eve of Christmas Eve. I'm slowly getting my identification back, bit by bit. After the initial freakout and extraordinary display of righteous anger, my mother (who is the anti-crisis) reminded me that she has a birth certificate for me, cards and ID can be replaced, and money is just money. I'm still stinging from it, but mom's right. In the scheme of things, a small annoyance, really.

Tomorrow I'll be driving to Raleigh, and I start the new job on Monday. In effect, I'm leaving behind reference and instruction for a bit and starting the new year getting back to my access roots at NC State. I will show up on Monday ready to rock and loaded for bear. I'm really looking forward to the challenge, as this is completely different from what I've been doing the past two or three years, with room for both extraordinary success and huge failure. Good thing I don't truck with failure, eh?

My new year's resolutions - usually, these are a way to express-guarantee that I will not accomplish said resolutions, but I'm taking a different approach this year. A low-stress realistic approach. My resolutions, in no particular order, for those who care:

  • I will continue the fitness path I started in May. I've been doing well about eating healthy and working out, and I feel healthier and stronger than I ever have. Having an outside physical activity helps keep me moderately sane when my mental and work life go haywire. I know it's not something "new" for the new year, but it's a good habit that I want to continue to cultivate.

  • I will hit the ground running at my new job and do my utmost best to be a Bearer of Awesome. It helps that I will be working with other Awesome Folk, and I will not hesitate to ask them for help or advice when I think I need it.

  • I will stick to my Excel budget and climb out of debt. I have a budget, and it is completely possible. I will do this.

  • I will finish my second book of poetry this year. (Not much of a resolution, since it's sort of required for the MFA, but I like to know there's something on the list I will definitely be able to cross off!)

  • Speaking of, this year I will finish my MFA. Not rain nor sleet nor driving wind nor blizzards nor a severe case of lazy-ass will prevent me from getting this degree, and I am excited. November 2009, y'all.

  • I will not let work compromise my mental health. I am at my best both at work and at home when I am clearheaded. There is nothing so dire - even at work - that a little deep breath and perspective can't keep under control.

  • I will write more letters (actual handwritten letters) and send them to my friends. I miss my friends, I love them, I do not tell them this enough, and email is cold and impersonal.

  • I will go to New York and see my family more often. Easier now that I'll be closer anyway, but hearing the holiday horrors from other people, and seeing my mom for the first time in a year and a half reminds me of how lucky I really am to have been born into *my* family, and I need to spend more time with them.

2009 will be a good year. I can feel it in my bones. I wish you all the merriest and safest of holidays - here's to 2009 being better than 2008.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Guardienne's Voice

For those of you who haven't met me, spoken with me on the phone, or heard me on my occasional call-in (with Otto in the background) to Uncontrolled Vocabulary, I figured I'd link to an interview I did with a local radio station, WUTC. It was focused on my poetry-writing, so it's not actually very library-related since they edited out the parts where I waxed poetic about how creative writers should do research and use their libraries (curses!), but hey. The audiofile is here and you can either click it to play or right-click to download. Mondo thanks to one of my favorite library systems dudes, Infosciphi, who didn't laugh at me when I revealed that I have no way of hosting this and offered to both host it and send me the link when I revealed my inadequacy. He didn't even laugh, though there may have been snark to the effect that I should ask NEWLIB *wink*.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sad State of Affairs in Higher Ed

These are rough times for everyone, and higher education is taking a huge blow right now. Decisions on cuts need to be made, and more and more institutions of higher ed are looking at cutting faculty, staff, removing certain degree programs, and even reducing the amount of scholarships and merit aid they offer. I figure this is as good a spot as any to air some of my issues about this, since I'll be losing my seat on the Faculty Senate here at UTC when I leave, and will have no greater body to pester for a bit with efficiency and annoying common sense.

You know, automaker management decided that if they needed to take the bailout for their companies, they would draw a single dollar a year in salary until the crisis was over (thought what they say and what they do may differ. Funny, I haven't heard anything about looking at former administrators who fell back to regular faculty with no more administrative duties, but are still drawing a six-figure salary while their colleagues are doing the exact same job and making $45k a year. for higher ed administration, I have heard very little in the whirlwind of proposed cuts about *not* paying out the remainder of contracts for which fired folk don't work. For instance, Fulmer was fired as UT's head football coach, and gets a six million dollar contract buyout over 2 years, and I haven't heard too many folks who are mortally offended that $6 million over two years is more than our UTC library budget for two years. In fact, it's more than our library budget for *three* years. For a university of about 10,000 students. Actually, our budget was just cut by about $50,000 which we didn't have to lose, but a single person makes millions for not going to work.

Well, I'll say it. I am offended. And I know arguments crop up often about athletics budgets versus academic budgets even in the best of times, but when, according to UTC's Chancellor Brown, the University of Tennessee system is preparing "for cuts to our state funding a deep 15 percent for next year" and goes on to share that "Vacant faculty positions totaling $200,000 are being eliminated, and $500,000 in operating and vacant personnel lines is also being lost. More than $1 million in enrollment growth dollars will be eliminated from the permanent budget" - I expect an outcry.

When the Associated Press reports that a $6M Illinois tutoring center assists only athletes - "...about 550 of the school's 37,000 students" - where is the group to stand and protest that universities are for learning? I happen to think that athletics are an important part of the college and university experience, yes, but they are still subordinate to the provision of an education, and when it is time for the axe to fall, athletics simply isn't the number one priority of these institutions. At least, it shouldn't be the number one priority.

A question this brings up, other than "omgwtfbbq how are people letting these sort of ridiculosities slide??", is: how low does state funding have to fall for state university systems and other public colleges and universities to not really be considered "public" anymore? I've already mentioned the dire straits Tennessee higher ed finds itself in. For the University of Kentucky, according to the Lexington Herald Leader, "State funding has dropped from about 30 percent of the university's revenue to less than 15 percent in 10 years." Thanks, there, state government. Not that you legislated that UK become a top 20 research institution or anything.


Much of this is likely due to the fact that I went to Centre College, a tiny private liberal arts school where, while we had athletics teams and were very proud of them, we focused on academics. Club sports were extremely popular and well-attended audience-wise, but there was none of this building a $20 million structure for basketball practice while academic programs took a hit. Never happen. Centre's President John Roush recently sent an email out to the college and alumni community letting us know what building projects were going forward, which were on hold, and that aid to students would not be impacted and they were not really looking at faculty layoffs seriously just yet. Thank goodness for generous donations from alumni.

And yet, although alumni and community giving is becoming a larger percentage of even public college and university funds, these are the very people being disenfranchised by cutting academics before sports. Sure, you can come watch a UK basketball game, but don't think that your English major is going to serve you extremely well after spending 4 or 5 years in overcrowded classes with overworked part-time faculty with no benefits teaching. Sure, you can enjoy your Mocs football game - at the expense, again, of what you're actually paying tuition for: an education.

It amazes me that the administration of higher education today can actually go out in public and look people in the eye with their shiny suits and shoes and merrily announce tuition increases and academic cuts when things are run so damned inefficiently. The UC system, at least, is trying to get a handle on one of these ugly inefficiencies: giant severance packages to those officials leaving one then work on another in the same system. Again, embarrassing, but at least someone got up the nerve to publicize it enough that they *had* to be embarrassed and do something.

My charge to you? Go ahead and look at the measures being taken by your academic institution. Some will be sane and useful. In other spots there will be glaring omissions, like forgetting to mention that perhaps your Teaching Resource Center completely duplicates the mission and some of the materials of the campus library, and that an organizational shakeup could help both in terms of long-term efficiency and service as well as budget-wise. You don't have to be as in-your-face as I know I can get, but do *something* other than pontificate how bad it's going to get, and huddle under your desk. Consider this, if you will, the war on education. Not as sexy as WMDs, admittedly, but where are our protesters? Or does nobody care?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Librarian's Take on "Freedom of Speech"

This may be quite the unpopular post, but since when have I worried about being unpopular? My last post (which discussed not being ass-ish on a public non-anonymous list) was taken by some on the NEWLIB-L email list as an attempt to muzzle new librarians posting to the list, and as an attempt to infringe upon freedom of speech, which is, of course, anathema to the entire idea of librarianship. I figured it would be useful for me - if no one else - if I worked through my thoughts on this here.

You can join the list and scour the archives (an unfriendly task if ever I saw one the way NEWLIB is set up - pitiful for librarians who are supposedly into the whole "access" thing), but comments were made to the effect that my chastisement of unprofessional behavior on the list was an attempt to "muzzle" the young librarians (of which I consider myself one, as I haven't quite hit 30 yet), stomping all over their right to free expression in the name of my own interpretation of professional behavior, and encouraging them to be "obsequious followers" as opposed to the courageous, intelligent risk-takers employers are looking for.

I would argue that putting on a stream-of-consciousness display of insulting someone on a public and non-anonymous list is certainly within your rights. When I say "not" to do something in this venue, because we are all adults I assume folks are taking it as strong advice and not an order. (Far as I know, I'm still not a despot with any authority over internet conduct.) So partly this is my fault for giving orders, I suppose. I assume everyone already knows they're free to make an ass of themselves if they so desire. *BUT*, as I posted in a later reply to the list, I don’t think that means I should also have to attach value to people freely expressing themselves as incompetent. I fully expect that many will not heed my warnings/advice/muzzling attempts, and that’s fine. What I had hoped to do was make it obvious that a public professional list is not some anonymous online forum with zero real-life repercussions. I think it’s inappropriate and irresponsible to allow people to feel like they can say/do anything and not expect certain consequences that will indeed affect them - especially those new librarians who, it is occasionally claimed on list, just don't know any better and are learning the ropes.

As for librarianship and the freedom of expression - yes, I consider the support of freedom of expression a mantle you take up when you join this particular profession. If we had a creed, it'd be in there. And while I support the freedom of expression and protests and the airing of unpopular and underappreciated views, I still believe that free expression should be an *educated choice*, not just an excuse to say whatever crosses someone’s mind with an expectation that there won’t be challenge. Yes, I believe in free expression, but that doesn't mean I'm going to support what you say, just your right to say it.

I think what got many people up in arms was that I mentioned that conduct on these public lists could factor into later hiring decisions, since the library world is small and rudeness and inappropriate public response is generally remembered (I think this was the idea that had the most muzzling potential). It wasn't intended as a threat - it was intended as a warning to those who think that because they can post to these lists via email from home in their jammies with a kitty or pup in their lap that they can also be that informal when they post. *buzzer sound* Wrong. It's a librarian list, not a Fark forum or something similar. You're attaching your name and reputation as a professional to your initial posts as well as your replies, and I think I would be remiss if I didn't let new folks know that.

The great - and horrible - thing about the internet is that pretty much everything out there is fodder for inspection. I've had employers let me know during the interview stage that they had already googled me, and I don't think it's too much to assume that employers - especially in the face of increasing applications and evenly matched candidates - might check to see what your activity is on professional lists. Not so much in an attempt to be Big brother-ish as to get a sense of how you contribute to such lists. (Note: I haven't done this, but it's not a bad idea *grin*). As for myself, I've not got a problem with my future employers knowing that I'm occasionally an opinionated bee-yotch who isn't afraid to piss people off if I think it's necessary. They'd find that out about me pretty quickly anyway both by my interview and from my former administrations. I'm aware of it, and I'm aware it may impact me in a not-great way. (Sort of like my very obvious tattoo habit.) But it's a decision I made consciously, and for that reason alone - if we're assuming that NEWLIB is to provide info for those who really are new - I think it's important to share that I think folks should make these decisions consciously. Whether you agree with me on that - or even care at all - well, that's for you to take or leave.

So please, feel free to make a nuisance and a rude ass of yourself on library lists. I just want to make sure that when you do so, you're aware of possible consequences and don't come crying later that you had no idea it would be a factor in your professional future.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

More NEWLIB-L Drama-Llama Goodness

Le sigh. Le groan. I logged into my work email to cull it a bit near the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, and woo-hoo, NEWLIB flamey goodness. A soon-to-be MLS grad posts a question asking how to convert a Word file to PDF. Some make suggestions. Some make fun of that person for not googling the answer. Some flame the fun-makers. The fun-makers flame general idiocy. Delicious holiday goodness, including folks who decide it could be fun to post as different people (but, alas, from the same ISP and identified. D'oh!)

I swear I tried to keep my mouth shut and my typing fingers still. I did. And then people who expected to use the list as a professional resource started leaving the list. This happens occasionally when things get too Romper Room-esque, it's natural. This prompted yet others to snark at those who couldn't handle the capricious nature of internet commenting. And then, of course, I jumped into the fray. You knew I would, didn't you? You were hoping I would. One last hurrah before heading to NC and trying to be all decorous and managerial-like.

And so, the e-mail.

Okay, I've tried to keep to myself on this whole thing, and can't help myself. (Surprise, surprise, I know.)

"If you get spooked by the dust bunnies that get kicked up on this list, I suggest you cancel your ISP too because you can't handle "teh interwebs"."

That would be fine if we were talking about a flamewar on Fark, except this list isn't "teh interwebs." It is a professional tool and resource that is intended to answer questions for those entering the field and to point out what is inappropriate and what is appropriate as a professional. For instance, while asking what programs are available for free file conversion would seem appropriate, asking a general question of "omg I've never done this how do I convert to pdf?" demonstrates that you didn't even attempt to search the web for an answer before asking a giant list. One question is more appropriate than the other in a professional setting.

Flame wars that result from nasty comments or ignorance aren't just anonymous hiccups - they're a great way of culling the herd when it comes to hiring time. And believe me, this list is used for that, and people make note of names and attitudes. NEWLIB being a list for "new" librarians does not exempt those new librarians, experienced librarians, or about-to-be-librarians from being chastised for displays of willful ignorance, impoliteness, and general idiocy when it happens. In fact, we should *expect* to be chastised for such behavior on this list, since it's supposed to help you know what to do - and what *not* to do - as a professional. And if you make egregious mistakes, you'll be called out on them.

The library world is small. I may not know your face, but I likely know your online handle, your avatar, or your name and place of employment. And because the job market is a tight one, don't think that your informal interactions "don't count" just because you don't have your suit or heels on when you have them. Those are, in fact, the most *important* interactions, since folks can see just how you function when push comes to shove or when The Boss isn't around.

Make a note.


Colleen S. Harris
Assistant Professor, Reference & Instruction Librarian
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Monday, November 17, 2008

Open Letter to Haworth Press

Dear Haworth,

I am embarrassed for you. I am embarrassed on behalf of everyone who has ever published in Journal of Access Services and anyone who has ever had an article rejected by you. To publish an entire issue written by the Annoyed Librarian - an anonymous, acidic persona whose main intent is not to improve library and information science but to take glee in its struggles - is a slap in the face to those of us in the profession and those we serve. I will not be linking to the issue nor to the AL's blog. I will not reward you, though you might appreciate the publicity of this post. You have just admitted that you are not a scholarly journal to be taken seriously. And as someone moving back over to Access after a long stint away, I'll be certain to send my work to the Journal of Library Administration, the Journal of Academic Librarianship, or hell, even to that cute little kid 'zine Highlights before I let my professional work be associated with you. Nice stunt, hope it serves you well.

No Love,

Colleen S. Harris, The Guardienne

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Of Effigies and Insults at UK

I try to keep politics off of this blog. Mostly because I consider myself a moderate and can fall to either side depending on what the issue is, which tends to confuse, unnerve, and annoy people. But this is different. At the University of Kentucky, an effigy of Barack Obama was found hanging in a tree, startling students, staff and faculty on their way to classes and work this morning.

This hits me personally - I worked at UK for years, got my MLS there, and consider Kentucky (where I also did my undergrad work at Centre College) my true home. Given Kentucky's deep and problematic history with race relations, I was always very proud to point out the strides the state, and especially the University made towards the goal of respecting and appreciating diversity. University President Lee Todd sent the following email to the entire campus:

From: President Lee T. Todd, Jr.
Sent: Wednesday, October 29, 2008 12:15 PM
To: (all of campus)
Subject: Campus Incident on October 29, 2008

Unfortunately, this morning an effigy of Senator Barack Obama was discovered hanging in a tree on campus. I am personally offended and deeply embarrassed by this disgusting episode. This is not reasonable political expression; it is just malicious. And it is unacceptable.

On behalf of the University of Kentucky I apologize to Senator Obama and his family. I will personally assure them that this is not who we are as a University or as a state.

As President of the University of Kentucky, I feel outraged and hurt. I am outraged because we work very hard, every day, to build bridges across the divides. Diversity and inclusion are among our most precious core values. Episodes like this serve only to erode our confidence in and respect for one another.

Regardless of your political opinions or the candidates you support, a University such as ours must be a place where spirited discussion can take place, but within the bounds of civility, common sense, and respect for the views and feelings of others. We have insisted - and we will continue to insist - that we as a University and as a state rise above hatred and acts of malice or ignorance. The line separating civil discourse from unacceptable behavior has been crossed, constituting a clear violation of the University's code of ethics, and possibly constituting criminal acts, which would also violate University regulations. Such acts will not be tolerated. Those found responsible will be subject to the full force of university, state, and federal rules and regulations.

There is an on-going investigation into this incident, which includes federal authorities. If you have any information that would assist in this investigation you have a responsibility to contact the UK Police Department (257-1616).

I am utterly impressed by his unconditionally disgusted response, heartbroken that this sort of thing would happen on a university campus where dialogue is meant to be fostered in a creative and intelligent atmosphere, and happy that every single former coworker, staff member, and student who has mentioned this to me is uniformly horrified and hopes that the country won't use this incident to reflect all of the people of the state, or the feelings of everyone at the University.

We can't help what our neighbors, friends, or fellow citizens do, for the most part. But we can control our responses to these things, and I'm proud of my Kentuckians for standing against this sort of childish, hateful, and useless demonstration.

Open note to the perpetrators: if the best statement you can make about a political candidate is based solely on the color of his skin, I feel very sorry for you. If your goal was to foster the sentiment that a black man in office would be too 'dangerous' and create unrest in the country, I tell you this: whomever I *do* vote for, I am not going to not-vote for a candidate out of fear. That's how elections take place in oppressive regimes, and I refuse to bow to such low tactics or allow that to happen to me in my own country. You are likely not ashamed of what you did, but it's enough for me that the rest of us are ashamed to call you one of our own.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Colleen Has a New Job

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's official. As of January 5, 2009, I will leave my position as reference & instruction librarian here at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and take up my new position as Assistant Head of Access & Delivery Services at North Carolina State University.

Give me a moment as I say Woo!

Setting aside the unfortunate - but funny - moniker of AssHead, this is a great opportunity. NCSU Libraries are known for not just treating their employees well, but for implementing cutting-edge services, and I'm looking forward to being a part of that. The Head of ADS is Mary Carmen Chimato, who is generally recognized as a big bucket of awesomesauce in library services, and I'm excited to get to work with her. Susan Nutter has made great strides in making the NCSU Libraries a priority for the university. I'll get great management experience and be able to work with a team of active, engaged library folks. I also hear that Raleigh and NC in general are wonderful places to be as a young professional. All around, this is a huge opportunity for me, and I'm thrilled about it.

On the other side, I'm sad to be leaving UTC. This has been the best library system I've worked for to date, with a group of staff that are truly a team, providing excellent service while faced with a declining resource pool. The year-plus that I've spent here have been the most productive of my career, and they've been the most pleasant. having worked in a few environments at this point, I can say that one as supportive, as funny, and as flexible as the one we have at Lupton Library is extraordinarily rare, and I'm reluctant to leave it behind. It has been a real treat to work with the folks here, and I hope I run into them often during my future in LibraryLand.

For now, though, amidst various deadlines for papers and journal articles, I will be flipping out about finding an apartment (which is already mostly done), moving, figuring out how to get a new license and plates, and everything else that goes along with getting settled somewhere new. I'll be here in Chattanooga until late December, and in Raleigh shortly thereafter. If you're in the Raleigh area, be sure to holler at me, since I need to make new friends!

Internet Librarian Preliminary Report

Yes, I know, IL08 is over, but I haven't blogged it at all. Mostly because it wasn't worth fighting over the one cord in the hotel room (really, Monterey Marriott? No wireless for customers? And charging for the 'net? Fail) and the wireless at the conference was patchy, and I rarely carry my laptop with me.

Initial report? Huge success. Our preconference workshop went over pretty well to the 10-12 participants, though they were sort of quiet (as opposed to us raucous presenters. Put Kenley Neufeld, Courtney Stephens, myself, Laura Carscaddon and Jezmynne Westcott on the same panel and you get so much energy it makes the rest few the planet look like they're on Valium). The presentation Rudy Leon and I gave on bridging the gap between the 1.8 user and the 2.0 world got good reviews (at least from the folks I met), and some lovely observer left me a note full of nice feedback that I now have tacked up on my office wall. Given that these were my very first actual speaking presentations on a national scale (I don't count the poster session at ALA), I think I did pretty well. Hooray for not falling on my face in front of the people I respect most in LibraryLand!

The best part of the conference for me, aside from all of these brilliant, active librarians in one spot, was getting to "meat" my online network. Believe it or not, my witty, brilliant, funny, inspiring and productive people are even more spectacular in person. Social networks like twitter and friendfeed made me much less shy about approaching people and saying hello and lent a great personality aspect to the conference where folks showcased their professional talents.

More from me on IL later, but if you run a search on Flickr for IL08 or IL2008 (and various variations of Internet Librarian 2008), you'll get a good feel for how things went down in Monterey.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Kill an Avatar, Get Jail Time?

I'll report on IL08 here shortly (it was a great conference!), but for tonight, before I mosey on over to bed with Otto in tow, I wanted to post a link to this story out of CNN (via AP): "Woman Arrested for Killing Virtual Reality Husband." Apparently a Japanese woman, upon finding her Avatar in the game "Maple Story" suddenly divorced, hacked into her ex-faux-husband's account and murdalized his avatar. He complained to police, and she was arrested and transported 620 miles to be detained for the crime.

Tonight I will likely be dreaming of all the World of Warcraft Horde suing the pants off of my former roommates, who ganked them whenever possible (though sans hacking). I wonder what a Tauren would like like in a suit, or a Night Elf in cuffs...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Off to Internet Librarian

Okay, all, I'm off to Internet Librarian in the wee hours tomorrow. (Oops, that reminds me: must print flight schedule.) I am currently in scatterbrain mode and trying to remember everything from the office that I need to take with me. I'll likely go mostly dark while I'm there, since my cell only does regular old texting and no web shenanegans, and I don't like hauling my laptop around unless I have to. If you want to get ahold of me, you can call/text me.

Things have been crazy around here lately, what with a packed-full instruction schedule, various other librarywork goodness, some publication proposals that were accepted and need to be fully written, and coursework. happily, the MFA is between semesters until next Residency in November, so it's just the MA classes hounding me to death right now. (This may put me in danger of losing my academic-elitist, intellectual label, but I do so despise Heidegger, with all of my Being.) My desk looks like a library exploded on it, my apartment desperately needs a thorough cleaning, and Otto the Wunderhund is going to love doggy playtime while he's boarded because I've been too pooped to pop lately. That and some interesting career decisions (to be blogged soon, I swear) have all had me feeling like life is up in the air in a ridiculous fashion.

But, as ever, I love it. Librarianship as a career never lets me stagnate. I may be exhausted, but it's better than being bored. More from me as I'm able over the next few days, I'll be back in Chattanooga on Thursday the 23rd.

Monday, October 06, 2008

New Drop-Deadlines

With Internet Librarian coming up, I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off a bit. I have finally resorted to making another drop-deadline list that carries me through the end of this semester, and my stomach sank a bit in the realization that no, I will not be going to Lexington for Thanksgiving, since I have far too much to get done. (Happily, an awesome librarian pal I have who has roots here in Chattanooga has invited me to partake in her family's holiday, so I won't spend it solo.)

For those of you who don't keep up with me in various other places online, the 3rd shift job at the gym lasted a whopping 5 weeks before I admitted my failure and need for sleep. However, I've also come to the conclusion that taking a full load for the MFA (16 hours), as well as two classes for the MA in Lit (in addition to my full time librarian-chasing-tenure gig) is too much. I took one MA class last semester, and that was a level of stress I could manage - this semester has been too much with an extra class. (Particularly since it's a Lit Crit class where we've been reading Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Marx and Saussure - I enjoyed these fellows much more in my Political Theory classes. But it's been a lot of work.)

Add to the above my enthusiasm and acceptance for Internet Librarian (come to our prefconference! Come to our presentation!), my article proposal just accepted for Urban Library Journal, an upcoming MFA semester that involves writing my critical thesis, and the fact that homegirl has not seen hide nor hair of an actual vacation since a three day weekend I took in April, and you have one very, very exhausted person.

My drop-deadlines. Some of them are not so scary (ENGL 552 is a poetry workshop and relatively light on work), some of them make me cringe (ENGL 527 is that Critical Literary Theory class that is whupping my behind). I am rather resenting the MFA for stealing a week and a half of my life in November (though admittedly the residencies are usually the highlight of my semesters as a writer, and I know this), as well as for making the whole first draft of the critical thesis due in the very first packet. That seems rather mean.

But, I'll get it done. I always do. And then I'll feel all warm and fuzzy that I got to check things off a list, move closer to two different degrees, and get something (or two somethings) published in Libraryland. I've only run it through the end of this semester so far because there are some things up in the air for next semester, including that the English department here has offered to let me teach a section of Freshman Comp. More on that in the future. Drop-deadlines below, with the scary ones bolded to emphasize the scaryness.

Drop Deadlines

10/15 – ENGL 552 revisions due, Essay 1 due

10/17 - 10/23 – Internet Librarian, Presentations

10/29 – ENGL 552 long poem due

10/29 – ENGL 552 grad paper (15-20p) due

10/30 – ENGL 527 7-10p paper due

11/1 – draft of LJ article – self-imposed deadline, email LBC

11/5 – ENGL 552 essay 2 due

11/12 – ENGL 552 portfolio due

11/14-11/23 – MFA residency

12/1 – Urban Library Journal article due

12/4 – ENGL 527 20-25p paper due

12/8 – ENGL 527 final due

12/11 – MFA draft critical thesis due (30p) in packet 1

12/31 – Collection Development Round 1 (self-imposed deadline)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

On Luck and Effort

Driving into work this morning, I found myself ridiculously annoyed at a radio commercial marketing a packet on study skills. The ad said, "Do you wish you were one of those lucky parents whose child gets good grades?" Sitting in traffic, I mulled this over, and came to the conclusion that my good grades (and my sister's, and my brother's) had nothing to do with mom and dad's "luck." It had to do with - - brace yourself - - good old fashioned hard work. (Okay, and the threat of an ass-whupping if we didn't make the grade.)

Now, naturally, some children are better at school than others. I was one of the lucky ones - I'm simply a good test taker. My sister was not so lucky - she had to work her ass off for her good grades. My brother fell somewhere in between. But it was still not a matter of my parents being "lucky." My parents worked their asses off - we were mid-to-lower middle class on Long Island. We never went on family vacations, because those funds were spent on nutritious food (we never had fast food) and school supplies. My parents were a constant presence, asking what we had done in school that day, peering over our shoulders as we did our homework. Our questions were never just answered, since Mom's answer of first resort was always "Look it up" or "check the index," and it was made very clear that just as my parents had to go to work to support the family, the hours we spent in school each day should be considered a similar sort of 'work,' and it was our responsibility to get it done well.

Neither of my parents went to college. Mom started, but dropped out when she got married. My dad went to trade school - he was an electrician. Dad rarely helped with homework because he worked such long hours, early and late, but he was a great help when it came to learning circuits in high school physics. Mostly, though, the way we got good grades was knowing that much as our parents had jobs, school was *our* job as children. My parents made it clear that non-performance wasn't an option, though there were different avenues for help if we needed them, such as tutors or extra books. This is to say, it's not like we were brought up in the Ivory Tower, though I merrily reside there now. We are regular folk, swinging between hard-put and okay in the middle class.

The idea that "luck" is the reason kids succeed is a dangerous one. It implies that there's no responsibility necessary, no labor-intensive oversight, and it's selling a product that allows parents to abdicate responsibility. Per a recent conversation with a good friend on this advertisement, I laughed out loud when she said, "Give kids good genes and educate them. That's not luck. If you have a fetal alcohol baby and don't buy them books, what do you expect?"

All kidding aside, though, it isn't luck. It a matter of time and diligence. Framing the discourse on student achievement as a matter of luck cheapens the work done by many parents and educators, and cheapens the student's own effort. It is not a matter of "luck" when a new college student succeeds or fails - it is usually a direct correspondence to how much work the student has put in and what sort of a support system the education system and their parents or home life have provided them. "Luck" has no place in education - let's leave it to the leprechauns and lottery folks, and recognize that work is what it takes to succeed.

Edit/Late Addition: I would argue the same goes for our work in LibraryLand, too.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My NewLib-L Recent Post

(email sent by Colleen to newlib-l after long discussions by folks about how there are no jobs, adn how dare MLS programs not inform students of their bleak prospects, etc etc ad nauseam ad infinitum)

I think it would be best to qualify what people mean when they talk about lack of entry-level jobs. Do you mean lack of entry-level jobs you'd be willing to take? Probably. I got my current job a year ago after 4 months of searching. In that time, while I sent out a ton of applications, they were all written to that specific job opportunity (which took a lot of time), and I made sure to highlight how I met the required and the preferred qualifications. While I understand not everyone has the ability to go cross-country for a job, I think it behooves people to understand that the MLS is not likely to get you a job close to home, especially if you live near an MLS-granting institution.

Just recently, I decided to toss out 2 applications to dream jobs, though I'm perfectly happy and pleased with my current job, and I was offered interviews (at no cost to me, other than some vacation days from work) at both. Both are still entry-level, which I don't mind, since I'm only one year in. I find it hard to believe, given the success of last year's job hunt and this year's feelers put out, that there is such a serious dearth of positions. While I consider myself active in the profession, I am most decidedly not one of the *rock stars* who gets flown about the country to tell others about my awesome programming, developing, or new projects. I'm just yer ordinary librarian, librarianating.

Not only do I *not* see a dearth of positions advertised (are you all subscribed to the same listservs as I am? Perhaps not, because my inbox chokes on the number of job opportunities), in my experience (and that of most other librarians I know - public librarians, folks in the private sector doing info work, and others, as well as my academic library pals), what we're seeing are sub-par applications. Yes, positions are being eliminated, but at no greater rate than they are in any other industry due to automation, position elimination and 'spreading the job,' or simply hiring less skilled workers for less pay.

It's one thing if you are geographically stuck due to whatever circumstance. In that case, yes, you're going to find it quite difficult to find something close, because that's not how library openings work. You must go to the work, the work does not come to you. And while you could market your MLS into information-skillz, if you want to be an official quote-librarian-unquote, your choices will be rather limited. Unless the situation was unexpected, you have no one to blame but yourself if you find yourself saddled with an MLS and no close job to ride off to.

I'll also note - as we do on this list from time to time - an MLS is not a guarantee of a job. Neither is an MBA for that matter, and we're graduating far more of those in this country than MLS folks. As a veteran of quite a few graduate programs, I don't think it amiss to say if you're about to invest a ton of money and time in a graduate program, it's your own danged fault if you didn't look at the job prospects ahead of time. It is not the academic program's job to "be more proactive in informing graduates about the job market sectors are looking for librarians" - the job of the program is to give you the opportunity to complete the degree. The job hunt is just that - a HUNT, requiring effort, planning, and the proper tools and weapons. It's not something that falls into your lap because someone else does the research for it, particularly since everyone's needs and wants will differ. There is very little expectation in other disciplines (at least according to my grad experience beyond libsci in PoliSci, Education, English, Fine Arts) that the *program* helps you find a job, or even keeps you informed about the market. That is your own responsibility as an engaged about-to-be professional.

If you are not taking advantage of social networking to meet and talk to other librarians or information professionals (who become friends, offer to help with resumes and letters, and keep you apprised of job openings that may not make it to bigger lists, or may throw your name in for consideration), if you are not making it a point to do professional development (most LIS programs offer free or discounted opportunities, and working in a non-library sector while applying does not preclude you from using vacation or sick time to attend conferences), then I am afraid I don't know what to tell you. You get back whatever effort you put in. Apologies if that sounds harsh, but it's truth.

Colleen (my opinions, of course, do not reflect that of
my employer or colleagues, who would likely be horrified by my crankiness)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Top 100 Meme: 1997

The meme (as taken from Rudy's Ramblings: the top 100 songs the year you graduated high school. Go to Per Rudy's instructions, type the year of your high school graduation [or first year, if still in high school] into the search function. Retrieve the Top 100 songs from that year. Strike through the songs you hate(d). Underline the songs you like(d). Bold the songs you love(d). Leave blank those you don’t care about or don’t remember. Annotate at will.

Here goes, the list for my high school graduation year of 1997 *cringe* - I found that some of them I just didn't remember. Honorable mentions from other years below 1997:

1. Candle In The Wind 1997, Elton John

2. Foolish Games/You Were Meant For Me, Jewel Played to death

3. I'll Be Missing You, Puff Daddy and Faith Evans If they liked him that much, they'd've written a new song instead of ripping off an old classic. Just saying.

4. Un-Break My Heart, Toni Braxton I heart me some Toni.

5. Can't Nobody Hold Me Down, Puff Daddy Another ripoff, but seriously catchy. I have been known to sing this when success looks against the odds. "Cain't nobody ever hold me dow-own, whoa no, I gots to keep on mo-vin'...."

6. I Believe I Can Fly, R. Kelly

7. Don't Let Go (Love), En Vogue

8. Return Of The Mack, Mark Morrison

9. How Do I Live, LeAnn Rimes Trisha Yearwood's was better. Both are whiny.

10. Wannabe, Spice Girls Anything involving the Spice Hurls get stricken.

11. Quit Playing Games (With My Heart), Backstreet Boys - I take the fifth on this one. Neither loved nor hated. (They reminded me of my beloved NKOTB)

12. MMMBop, Hanson The world would have been a better place without this band. Srsly.

13. For You I Will, Monica

14. You Make Me Wanna..., Usher Usher's hot. Nuff said.

15. Bitch, Meredith Brooks

16. Nobody Keith Sweat

17. Semi-Charmed Life, Third Eye Blind I liked this song even more when I bought the cd and found the parts they refused to play on the radio.

18. Barely Breathing, Duncan Sheik

19. Hard To Say I'm Sorry, Az Yet Featuring Peter Cetera

20. Mo Money Mo Problems, Notorious B.I.G.

21. The Freshmen, Verve Pipe Loved this one. It was overplayed, but I thought it was haunting.

22. I Want You, Savage Garden

23. No Diggity, BLACKstreet Featuring Dr. Dre This is still at the top of my playlist. "Herb's the word, spin's the verb..."

24. I Belong To You (Every Time I See Your Face), Rome

25. Hypnotize, Notorious B.I.G.

26. Every Time I Close My Eyes, Babyface

27. In My Bed, Dru Hill

28. Say You'll Be There, Spice Girls

29. Do You Know (What It Takes), Robyn

30. 4 Seasons Of Loneliness, Boyz II Men

31. G.H.E.T.T.O.U.T., Changing Faces

32. Honey, Mariah Carey No fan of Mariah

33. I Believe In You And Me, Whitney Houston

34. Da' Dip, Freaknasty When I have control of the tunes, this still comes on. And I still dance. There may have also been a dancing-on-the-bar incident related to this song.

35. 2 Become 1, Spice Girls Seriously, killing me with the Spice Girls here.

36. All For You, Sister Hazel

37. Cupid, 112

38. Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?, Paula Cole

39. Sunny Came Home, Shawn Colvin This song made me want to set things on fire.

40. It's Your Love, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill

41. Ooh Aah... Just A Little Bit, Gina G

42. Mouth, Merril Bainbridge YES. I still have this CD. She was interesting.

43. All Cried Out, Allure Featuring 112

44. I'm Still In Love With You, New Edition

45. Invisible Man, 98 Degrees It did not hurt that this band was uber-hot, but they got lost since they were sort of the same as the backstreet Boys and the other boyband at the time.

46. Not Tonight, Lil' Kim

47. Look Into My Eyes, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

48. Get It Together, 702

49. All By Myself, Celine Dion best drunk-and-singing-to-myself-after-a-breakup song ever.

50. It's All Coming Back To Me Now, Celine Dion Yes, I am embarrassed that i just bolded two Celine Dion songs in a row. But c'mon, these are the best ones to sing along to!

51. My Love Is The Shhh!, Somethin' For The People

52. Where Do You Go, No Mercy Where do you go? Mah lovely....I wanna lovely. Love this song.

53. I Finally Found Someone, Barbra Streisand and Bryan Adams Bryan Adams makes my heart go pitter-patter. Babs I can take or leave.

54. I'll Be, Foxy Brown Featuring Jay-Z

55. If It Makes You Happy , Sheryl Crow

56. Never Make A Promise, Dru Hill

57. When You Love A Woman, Journey

58. Up Jumps Da Boogie, Magoo And Timbaland

59. I Don't Want To/I Love Me Some Him, Toni Braxton Seriously. Toni Braxton *hearts*

60. Everyday Is A Winding Road, Sheryl Crow - was not enamored of this one, though I like Crow

61. Cold Rock A Party, Mc Lyte

62. Pony, Ginuwine This one also involved in a dancing-on-the-bar incident.

63. Building A Mystery, Sarah McLachlan - Couldn't stand her in college when some girls would wear black, lock their door, and put her on repeat in the dark, but she really is a talented musician.

64. I Love You Always Forever, Donna Lewis Grown women with voices like three year olds do nothing for me, musically. Neither do really elementary rhymes in the lyrics. Creepy.

65. Your Woman, White Town

66. C U When U Get There, Coolio

67. Change The World, Eric Clapton

68. My Baby Daddy, B-Rock and The Bizz

69. Tubthumping, Chumbawamba Le sigh. This was a staple of the fraternity parties I attended in freshman and sophomore year.

70. Gotham City, R. Kelly

71. Last Night, Az Yet

72. ESPN Presents The Jock Jam, Various Artists Yes. Excellent source of tunes.

73. Big Daddy, Heavy D

74. What About Us, Total

75. Smile, Scarface

76. What's On Tonight, Montell Jordan - I don't remember this one, but if they had put in "Let's Get it on Tonight, it would have been bolded.

77. Secret Garden, Bruce Springsteen Aw. I love the Boss's softer side.

78. The One I Gave My Heart, w Aaliyah

79. Fly Like An Eagle, Seal I like Steve Miller band's version better.

80. No Time, Lil' Kim

81. Naked Eye, Luscious Jackson

82. Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix), Los Del Rio I know it's annoying...

83. On and On, Erykah Badu

84. Don't Wanna Be A Player, Joe

85. I Shot The Sheriff, Warren G - Dear everyone: stop with the remakes and write your own goddamned songs.

86. You Should Be Mine (Don't Waste Your Time), Brian McKnight Featuring Mase

87. Don't Cry For Me Argentina, Madonna I love Madge. She's the pop queen.

88. Someone, SWV

89. Go The Distance, Michael Bolton

90. One More Time, Real McCoy

91. Butta Love, Next

92. Coco Jamboo, Mr. President

93. Twisted, Keith Sweat

94. Barbie Girl, Aqua Too annoying for words.

95. When You're Gone/Free To Decide, Cranberries

96. Let Me Clear My Throat, DJ Kool Ah huh, ah huh, ah ah! If y'all wanna party like we do, say if y'all wanna party like us, lemme hear you say ah, ah, ahahahah...

97. I Like It, Blackout Allstars YEEEEAAAAH, baby, I like it like that (I like it like that) I got soul!

98. You're Makin' Me High/Let It Flow, Toni Braxton

99. You Must Love Me, Madonna

100. Let It Go, Ray J

My faves from 1998 that I have to include are:

14. Gettin' Jiggy Wit, Will Smith Dear Ben - you dance like a rock star. You're like the white Will Smith, and this song reminds me of you *wink*

40. Make Em' Say Uhh!, Master P (This one is a shout-out to Brandy: Make 'em say uhhhh (uhhhh) nana nanAH!

70. Ghetto Supastar (That Is What You Are), Pras Feat. Ol' Dirty Bastard and Mya

77. Touch It, Monifah Dirty, fun to dance to

Honorable mentions from 1999:

11. Where My Girls At?, 702 "From the front to back and if you're feelin' that, put one hand up, can you repeat that? Tryin' to take my man, see I don't need that! So don't play yourself..." Dedicated to man-stealers everywhere.

21. Bills, Bills, Bills, Destiny's Child - Mostly I was impressed with the use of the lyrics "Can you pay my automobills?"

26. Bailamos, Enrique Iglesias - Ask Brandy abotu the incident of holler-singing BAILAMOOOOOOS off of a balcony in the wee hours. Much fun.

39. Can I Get A F- You..., Jay-Z This is actually in my car's CD player RIGHT NOW. (Yeah, I'm classy like that.)

53. Miami, Will Smith - Beacause Will Smith is awesome, and I prefer my rap without "bitches," "hos" and the n-word.

56. Please Remember Me, Tim McGraw - So sad. To screw with some Toni Braxton lyrics, I love me some Tim

63. Give It To You, Jordan Knight - This was dirty. A little creepy. I liked it anyway.

75. Back That Thang Up, Juvenile Featuring Mannie Fresh and Lil' Wayne. Just because. I mean, how can you *not* dance to this?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11: How Terrorists Turned me into a Librarian

A post to remember 9/11.

I'm a native New Yorker, born and raised on Long Island. On 9/11/01, I was at Emory University, working on a PhD in Political Science. My classmate Keisha came in as we were waiting for Professor Giles' class to start, asking why we weren't watching tv, saying the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane - I thought it was a sick and tasteless joke until we turned on the tv in the classroom in time to watch the second plane hit the tower. All of the phone lines were down - you couldn't reach the city or the Island if you wanted to. I figured my mom and siblings were safe, unless there had been a school trip planned to the city. My father and all of my uncles are union electricians, and IBEW Local #3 is the city local - later, I heard that one of my uncles came out of the subways where he was working covered in the debris from the building fall.

Not too long after that I started asking myself what my priorities were, and how exactly my research as a polisci scholar would help real people on the ground (I was studying the theory of international conflict - game theory and such). When my younger brother joined the Marines, I grew disgusted that none of the work I was doing would actually help him on the ground - it was all theory in broad strokes, and game theoretical which presupposes a rationality that simply doesn't encompass what individuals are willing to do to get their points across. This factored in with a long illness and the realization that I loved the subject but didn't want to write a dissertation on it, and I left Emory.

I moved to Lexington, KY, where most of my friends were, including a couple of guys willing to let me move in with them on no notice (ah, the happy fruits of goign to a teeny college where you become so close to people). I played caretaker the first few months, cooking and cleaning. Tried my hand at teaching high school for a semester. Worked in technology sales while trying to decide where I wanted to go, but I missed academia. I believed - and believe - that colleges and universities are where people truly mold themselves into the characters they will hold for the rest of their lives. it's also the one time when people can ask as many questions as they want, no matter how off-the-wall, and expect to get not just an answer, but answers from varying viewpoints. I had worked in libraries before, and was always impressed by how Marx, Kant, von Clausewitz, Hobbes and Locke could sit beside each other on the shelves with such differing views and simply be equal. Libraries are a house of knowledge, their integrity guarded jealously by librarians.

So I didn't need much of a push when, asking what i should do with myself, the answer came back as "librarian." My own hefty personal library, my beliefs about the importance of learning and the unique crucible of the university and college environment, and my desire to have a real, tangible impact on people coalesced into my plan to become a librarian.

I started my library night supervisor job in August of 2004, started library school in January of 2005, and graduated with the MLS in July of 2006. I love what i do for a living, I think it is important and upholds ideals and principles I can live by, and I've never looked back.

Maybe I was a librarian all along, and just needed a push to get me to question things. 9/11/01 was a hell of a push, and it really threw into sharp relief some things I had believed, but never thought to say aloud, or make a basis of my profession: belief in the freedom of information. My belief in the freedom to believe in whatever you want - so long as you aren't hurting someone else. My belief that with good guidance and support systems, people can become upstanding citizens with a penchant for critical thinking. My conviction that there need to be some front-line guardians and guardiennes to protect the existence of all - even the most unpopular - thoughts and arguments.

9/11 was one of the most immediate experiences of intolerance on a grand scale that I have experienced in my life. I truly believe that my work as a librarian promoting freedom of information, information literacy, research, and critical thinking is important.

We all make a stand in our own way. Some of us donate time and money to causes we believe in. Some, like my brother, don a uniform and fight for it. Some write to create a record of the human experience in all of its facets. I became a librarian and chose to promote the free exchange of ideas and the preservation of ideas as my profession.

A moment to remember 9/11. I don't think any of us has escaped its touch, and while fear-mongering over it is not my preferred way to remember the event and honor its victims, I *do* think it is important to take a moment and think about living in a world where there is no guarantee that you can simply go to work and do your job without the possibility that someone is willing to kill you simply for what you believe and how you live. In the US, we have a relative luxury in that such events happen rarely, but they do happen, and we should remember that. We should value our time and not waste it doing something we don't believe in, or worse, something we hate, for forty-plus hours a week. Think about it: are you where you want to be? If you are not, how free are you, really?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Another Librarian's Book Banning Rant

There has been quite a bit of brouhaha over Sarah Palin's alleged book banning attempts. (You can read about it at The LA Times, Time, and just about anywhere else you care to trip over it on the 'net, not to mention the various librarian listservs, twitter, and friendfeed.) Let's take a moment and discuss this, shall we?

Librarians - I'm taking the liberty of speaking for all of us here, though we may differ on minor details - generally believe it is their duty to provide information. To everyone (unless the library is a special library that only serves certain people - like a law firm library). But generally, your public and academic librarians are there to give you what you need, with that "you" defined as broadly as possible.

To book-banner wannabes: for every book like And Tango Makes Three and the Harry Potter series that you'd like to ban for gay penguins and heathen magic, I have others clamoring to ban Ann Coulter and *gasp* the Bible. (Lots of war and sex and nekkidness castrating of incapacitated adults in that one, you know). Remember, we have collection development policies that guide what we do and do not purchase, but if something is in our purview, we generally purchase books on a topic from nearly *all* viewpoints. Most libraries have a mechanism in place for challenging books, but librarians usually come down hard on the side that the information is there for those who wish it.

Those who wish it. Here's an interesting concept. If you do not want to read something, please feel free to pass it by on your way to whatever it is you *do* want to read.

If, as one of the LA Times commenters says, you are worried that:

"children today need our protection from growing up too fast. As a mother of 5 children, and one of them about to have a child!, I'm guessing Sarah Palin, along with most mothers, feels the same way I do. It's like drinking alcohol. I don't think it should be banned, but it should remain in places where underage children can't get their hands on it"

I have a simple solution for you. Pay the hell attention to what your underage kid is doing. Underage children cannot "get their hands" on reading material you don't support if you're watching them when they're at the public library, folks. (Same for alcohol. Tough for an underage kid to get their hands on booze if you know where they are, what they're up to, and what sort of photos they're posting to their MySpace account.) This is also a good time to point out that libraries are not day care centers. You are not to just drop your child off and hightail it to the mall. Either watch your underage child like a parent is supposed to, or understand they may climb into some stacks and choose a book you're not happy with. just be glad some creep didn't walk away with them while you weren't doing your parenting job.

It is not a public library's job to be a bastion of morality. Morality is personally defined. That's *your* job. What we do is make information available. If you choose to filter the information your child receives - and I fully support your right as a parent to do so - then do your job. I'll keep doing mine.

Let's Shoot for Mediocrity, Says the World

I sat through a Faculty Senate meeting yesterday where the Math department presented a proposal to develop a math master's program. A good idea on the face of it, I have to question developing a graduate program in a field where we graduate less then 15 majors a calendar year. I also questioned the wisdom of allowing folks with a BA to teach the university's developmental (read: remedial) math classes. The gist of the reply (not a direct quote, since I didn't write it down, but this is pretty close) was, "Well, these folks would hold bachelors degrees in math, or the equivalent. Which meets the SACS accreditation standards."

Well, color me thrilled that we'll strive to meet minimum standards. Also color me highly uncomfortable with the thought of folks - since the plan is to draw community members, not undergraduates - whose BAs and classroom experience are 20 years old to teach the most struggling kids. Le sigh. Many people disagreed with my take on that, others agreed.

This leads me to a question: since when is the minimum standard something to strive for? Pi. Ti. Ful. People should be ashamed if the best they can come up with for an argument is "well it meets the minimums." And it's worked its way all the way to the top, now that we've got Palin running on the "I'm a hockey mom" qualification. I know it's bad form to include politics, but really. According to Peggy Noonan at the WSJ:

"Her averageness accentuated her specialness. Her commonality highlighted her uniqueness."

We will, for now, ignore the very awfulness of words like "uniqueness" and "specialness."

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't particularly like either ticket. I consider myself neither liberal nor democrat at this point, since I'm evenly split on issues. But having the GALL to run as an "aw, shucks, folks, I'm just like you, an ordinary person" leaves an awful taste in my mouth. I do not want an Everyman/woman as my President or VP. I want someone supersmart and superaccomplished. (It's the same way I feel about teachers, really.) Advertising yourself as average and common does nothing to assure me that you can handle the monumental task of running a country. And pooh-poohing the idea that massive experience is necessary for that sort of post also rubs me the wrong way, since I'm pretty sure it's not an easy job.

A plea to my fellow Americans: please stop being enamored of mediocrity. Please do not accept it as a qualification, or even as a desirable trait. Do you really want the guy or gal slaving away in the cubicle next to you, the UPS delivery guy, your friendly neighborhood grocer, your fellow soccer mom, a local business owner, etc. responsible for your future, that of your children (or nieces, or whatever), and making world-altering decisions? Yeah, no. I didn't think so. THINK, people. I implore you. Demand better of yourselves, of your schools, and of your leaders.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

This Crazy Librarian Life

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind both personally and at work. Otto ze wunderhund is recovering well from surgery, I'm totally wiped from 3rd shift and a wickedly busy start to the semester, and classes. I just mailed out packet 4 of 5 for the 2nd semester of the MFA, the workshop I'm taking at UTC with Earl Braggs is going well so far, and the Lit Theory class I'm taking is warping my brain.

I've finally given in to the fact that working the third shift is not going to work for my life as it stands right now. The weekend of the 13th is my last working those godawful hours (though I got to meet some really great people). I'm looking forward to having my weekend time back to actually accomplish things instead of getting half-sleep in a personal twilight zone while the dog stomps angrily around the bed, tired of being ignored. (I am also pretty sure I went ahead and walked the dog without pants on the other day when he woke me up to go out, I was so wiped. Sincerest apologies to my neighbors.)

So, what's in the hopper right now? Internet Librarian is coming up and I need to get my butt in gear for those two presentations. I'm waiting back on a call for proposals I responded to for Urban Library Journal. I need to finish up some final things for the survey I'll be sending out for a paper I'm writing with my dean on how smaller colleges and universities deal with sabbaticals when librarian staffing is tight. We're full up on instruction this semester, so I'll be busy with teaching a bunch. The last MFA packet for the semester is due near the end of September. My MA classes will keep me busy until the 10-day MFA residency in November when I'll be in Louisville. I need to polish my poetry manuscript to send along to the editor who requested the full book. I need to get my butt back into the gym on a more regular basis than 3 or 4 times a week. I'm supposed to go white-water rafting with my personal trainer on the 28th.

I could use a vacation just to sort of take a mental breather, but that's not going to happen anytime soon (hoping to head home to NY to see Mom at the end of December, though). And so, with a great big glass of suck-it-up-atine, I move on about my bidness.

I think that about covers it.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Food Meme

Courtesy of Allison, your meme of the day is: Food.

This is a list of 100 foods that every omnivore should eat sometime in their life. The idea is to bold the ones you've eaten.

Happily, I like to eat (though I avoid heavy spices), so i expect to do well on this one...

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare (I was raised on raw beef. OMG yum)
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart In New York, we called these "dirty water hot dogs," because the flavor was best when the water hadn't been changed in awhile. And omg they're awesome.
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes Cue Deana carter singign "Strawberry Wine"
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream Gross. Dad liked it. Well, he ate it. Pretty sure he only ate it because it was the only ice cream we kids wouldn't touch.
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters - It helped to grow up on an island. And boy, do I love seafood...
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float I've had one, but I hate the taste of root beer
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O - Never again will I do blue JellO shots. I swear.
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat Yup - went to jamaica 3 times and it's common there
42. Whole insects Like Allison said, unintentional
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more - I don't do whiskey. I do cheap.
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut - I prefer Dunkin' Donuts, myself
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini not a big fan of gin
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips - not my fault, I thought they were chocolate.
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain I grew up in a Puerto Rican neighborhood, of *course* we had platanos
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail In a lovely garlic butter sauce. Mm.
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam Someone in college forced me to try it. GROSS.
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta had it for the first tiem at Spalding U. during my MFA residency.
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Conclusion: The Guardienne loves her some foodstuffs. Also, now I'm ravenously hungry. Anyone got any raw oysters?

Otto Recuperation

Otto is recuperating, sitting quietly for his eyedrops before tearing around the house in his Elizabethan collar, making it very clear he does not believe that accessorizing is something doglets should be involved in. But he has so far been good humored about the giant increase in his turning radius, if a little frustrated that he can't deal with his itches very well on his own.

This blog will be returning to issues of librarydom and librarianation, but for those of you interested in watching Otto recover, I have a Flickr set dedicated for those photos here.

Thank you again to one and all who decided to help. I wish you could all meet him up close for snooterkisses!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friend(feeder)s

Dear Wonderful People,

Last night immediately after posting the plea for folks to help out for Otto's surgery to help with his bilateral entropion, you all seriously blew my socks off. I have never, ever seen such an outpouring of generosity, and I can hardly believe that you would do it for my pup & I. Most of you who have donated, I've never met in person, but I affectionately refer to you as my "invisible internet friends." You made yourself extremely visible.

The donation total are at $900 and counting.

Nine hundred dollars.

Please forgive the epithet, but I am reduced to my father's blue collar way of showing affection, reduced to tears and repeating "You fuckin' people" over and over. (Note that this was the highest form of "thank you" in my house, when "thank you" just wouldn't do.) I spent last night bawling my eyes out because of your generosity, and because my two-year old bassetboy will not be going blind anytime soon.

I could go on, I suppose, about how Friendfeed is a great social networking tool - some of the folks who have donated aren't followers of mine (or followed by me), but heard from a friend of a friendfeed. I just don't have it in me right now. I am all full up with gratitude for the generosity of friends and, if not strangers, then benevolent intarweb acquiantances.

I dropped off Otto in the wee hours of the morning at the vet (after many bellyrubs and morning hugs). He is currently being prepped for his surgery, and I'll get to bring him home tomorrow. The reason I will get to bring him home instead of being in prison for robbing a bank is all because of you. I cannot thank you enough for all of your help.

A note: I'll be removing the Paypal button once we get to within a few hundred bucks of the total so that there's no overage. The donation that will be made to the ASPCA will be the total of what's collected, and will be made in the name "Friends of Otto." I'll make sure you guys know when that's done, as well.

My pupster means the world to me, and I would have been devastated if I hadn't been able to give him this surgery - he's only 2 years old, and too young to go blind. You all have given me the greatest gift ever, and I appreciate your friendship. We now return to your regularly scheduled program of Colleen weeping in gratitude at her desk.

All of my love to all of you,


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Helping Otto (and I) Out

Hey, all. Those of you on Friendfeed have likely heard that while I was away interviewing at NC State, my Otto my basset hound was boarding at the animal hospital, and somehow his mild entropion (a turning in of the eyelids) got severe practically overnight. I just picked him up from the vet, and his eyes are ulcerated. They've scheduled the surgery for tomorrow which was, to say the least, horrifying and unexpected. Someone on FF (Kaia?) suggested CareCredit, which offers financing for medical type stuff, including vets - and happily, they have offered me a small credit line to use on the Ottopuss. Unhappily, it is nowhere near $1500. (Which is less than I thought the surgery for both his poor eyes would be, but is still beyond me by quite a bit).

So another bunch of awesome friendfeeders mentioned I could use tipjar or Paypal from the blog and let the beneficence of the webworld get showered on Otto's snooter. Thanks to Bobbi, there is now a PayPal button on the top left of this blog for the Save The Otto's Eyeballs Fund, for those of you who have a few extra pennies and were wondering where you should toss them.

I feel utterly ridiculous posting this on my librarian blog, but for those of you with pets - or those of you with children who remember how you felt about your pets before the kids came along - he is my sole companion. I lurv him more than anyone except my mom. If you understand and have some spare change, I'll beg on Otto's behalf. See the pic? how can I resist that face?

JMS had a great idea (because I felt like such a skeez asking for help) - whatever is donated to help out the Otto, I will donate an equal amount to the ASPCA (or we can take a vote for charities of choice for animals) once I make that moola back. So you're not just helping Otto, you're helping all of our furry pals. Dear JMS: you are an excellent idea-haver. And I love all of my friends for not thinking I'm ridiculous for getting teary over my pup.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The "How I Became a Librarian" Meme

I didn't get tagged for it, but there's a "how'd'ja becoem a librarian?" meme running around the blogosphere. Figured I'd toss my hat in the ring. If you haven't already done this one, consider yourself tagged and tell us your story.

I wasn't going to be a librarian, despite my early and obvious love of books. I worked at the Brentwood Public Library on Long Island when I was in high school. In college, I worked at the Centre College Grace Doherty Library for my first two years, adn spent my second two years as a research assistant to my favorite professor of all time, Nayef Samhat. I wanted to be a diplomat...until I realized (after receiving death threats for an opinion article I wrote in the college paper) that I likely wasn't diplomatic enough to avert war. Scratch that career.

Professor Samhat encouraged me to stay in academia, and helped me get into Emory's PhD program in Political Science, where I spent two years completely submerged in STATA regressions and JSTOR. Health issues and some personal questioning as to how useful writing a dissertation was (in the wake of 9/11) made me feel adrift, and I moved to Lexington to stay with friends and get healthy.

I worked at CompUSA which was A-W-F-U-L, and lamented to my pals "What should I BE when I grow up?" Everyone who helped me move my personal library of around 3,000 volumes immediately said, "Um, Librarian." (My friends are wise this way, and often know me better than I know myself.) I became the Circulation Night Supervisor at the University of Kentucky's Young Library, started my MLS, and a year and a half later had my MLS in hand, my health back, and had moved to 2nd shift reference & instruction as a parapro.

Feeling antsy with MLS in hand and no likely professional position to open up at UK, I moved home to NY and worked in Graduate Admissions at StonyBrook University, where I helped them move to digital dissertations. Hating NY, I job-hunted and came to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga for my first professional position as a reference & instruction librarian in August of 2007. I'm still here, and loving it.

My considerations were that I knew I didn't want to be in public libraries. I love academia - you can't beat the atmosphere, the free classes that are usually a benefit fit my nerdly needs to a 't,' and I feel I contribute to the student experience in a great way without having written a dissertation on something I wasn't in love with. For me, this is the best of all worlds. I believe in what I do. I think I'm a good teacher and make the students more comfortable. And I love that no two days are the same.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Of Personal Failures and Health

As I got home tonight and was thinking about how run-down I feel, how busy we're going to be this semester with an (at least) 15% increase in instruction schedules already scheduled, and the work that'll be involved in my critical theory class (not to mention the MFA), Allison posted this piece about food an issues. The reason I bring this topic onto my 'professional' - or at least my library - blog is that the spheres of my life intersect. I'm a librarian, but I'm also a student. And a woman. And a mom to a dog. A daughter. And myriad other personalities. I came home and Allison's post was in my gmail inbox, and it hit me pretty hard, for a number of reasons. (Go read it, she's a very good writer.)

Allison talks about unhealthy food issues, and how we convince ourselves - if society doesn't give us a few nice shoves - how we should look, act, eat, and physically *be.* I'm particularly sensitive about talking about this issue for a number of reasons. I'm a zaftig woman, for one, and talking about the thin model of beauty as a societal standard (for now) is something I find disturbing on a personal level. I also spent a number of years violently ill - for a period, the only thing I could eat without getting sick was white rice. I lost a great deal of weight and (I thought) looked great - but I couldn't have a life. My friends took very good care of me during those difficult years, but I remember how great it felt to watch the sizes shrink, even if it was for all the wrong reasons. Now that I'm healthy again, I still occasionally find myself wistfully thinking of my svelte (if sickly) former self, even though I know better.

I bring this up because I'm tired. I am belatedly realizing that I can only be me. My mother worked two jobs until she got hit with hyperthyroidism, and she's still recovering. By extension, of course, I figure I should be able to work two or three jobs just fine. I'm younger, right? Mom instilled a great work ethic in me, right? In my head I know that I have to be careful to balance my stresses, because it throws my health out of whack if I get too crazy, but another side of me doesn't care, and needs to prove I can do it.

Only I can't. Not and stay sane. And polite. And my cheery normal self. With all I've signed myself up for, I find I've slipped from my gym schedule, which was keeping me motivated and healthy. With less time and energy, I've also slipped from preparing my meals, and I can tell by my complexion going downhill, my energy going through the floor, and feeling generally crappy for falling back into bad eating habits. I spend zero waking time with the dog (oh, he gets walked, but we don't play much since I collapse once I get home). And I just got my syllabi describing the 25 page papers coming due.

I am not worried about the papers. I am more concerned that I am losing the good feel of being active and eating healthily (is that a word?). And I could do that mostly because I had downtime both after work and on the weekends. (Yes, yes, I can hear the choir of "I Told You So." I know you did, and you were right.)

Not quite sure what possessed me to think I can do it all. Because I *wanted* to be able to, I guess. And having kept up a similar wacky schedule before, I know I can do it, but that it comes at the expense of my mental and physical health. *Not* doing it makes me feel like a complete lazy ass because those hours haven't been filled with something "official."

Allison's post made me think about personal health, and how our perceptions of ourselves can really hurt us. It also made me think about myself at my healthiest - which was this summer, as I was gymming and cooking and resting and working, even if I wasn't at my thinnest. And this route is not going to lead to healthy. So now I just need to decide how long I can do it before I have to go ahead and drop the third shift and get my weekend rest time back. *sigh* I hate being a quitter. But having lost it before, I value my health, and I'd like to keep it awhile longer. I do not need to prove my superwomanhood. I do not need to prove my superwomanhood.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New Meme: Unofficial Librarian Bios

During a friendfeed-slash-Twitter discussion started by Iris, I commented that we should start the Unofficial Librarian Bio meme - a brief bio of yourself that you sort of wish you could send out, but you know the official venues really prefer the stuffy, boring version of you - stripped of all personality, dressed up in your Sunday best, and trying very hard not to be caught picking your nose or smacking your little brother.

Bah to that, I say. Time to let our awesomeness shine. I dare you to write up your unofficial bio. I've actually done this before, in this post, where I said:

"Colleen is a chunky library sort who stays at home and writes with her bossy dog on her feet when she's not teaching ungrateful ghetto kids how not to plagiarize their shit or use Wikipedia & Google as scholarly sources. When in doubt of her prowess, she distracts onlookers with her fierce bosoms."

I feel like I should rewrite it a bit, since re-using is cheating, so, here goes with a new one:

"Colleen (widely known as WarMaiden on the intarwebs) is a heavily tattooed, mostly jovial librarian with a mean shushface. When not spilling her awesomesauce on the conference presentation circuit or writing poetry, she spends her time teaching people why they should pay-the-hell-attention, and spices up her instruction by using the G-spot as a research example. Her fanbase is large, but she welcomes new admirers, as long as they cite their sources properly."

Hm. not sure I like that as much as the first one, but it's just a first cut at it. I see revision in my future....

So, what's your unofficial bio? Make sure you link in the comments!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

First Impressions & Customer Service Failures

We all know how important first impressions are, right? It's sort of like how Anne McCaffrey's dragons "impress" on new dragonriders-to-be. (Yes, I'm feeling nostalgic with a new herd of freshmen on campus.) First impressions are essential, particularly when you're talking about freshmen, wet behind the ears, completely disoriented and overwhelmed by being at a state school for their first college experience, and stressed out by trying to find their classrooms and last-minute add/drops on their schedule.

I usually don't think of them this way, because I'm not a fundraiser or in the alumni office, but the University at large should also think about the fact that these are the kids we hope will call this university 'home' even after they leave. (That could be my small liberal arts college experience shining through, though.) If nothing else, due to UTC's abysmal retention rates, you'd think the entire university would be bending over backwards to help out this fresh crop of new students.

You'd be wrong. About the "entire" part at least. Oh, yes, this is going to be a call-out on customer service suckage.

The story begins: I could not find my jeans this morning. My apartment is not that big - but seriously, an hour of looking, no jeans. No biggie, except they have my university ID in the back pocket. Gah. Oh, wait - ID located. Mangled by my chompity Basset Hound of Doom. *sigh* So, I need a new ID. Easy, right? No, not right. ID office opens at 8 at teh University Center, but you cannot get new ID until you go to the bursar's office (other side of campus), pay, get a receipt, and *then* you can go to ID office. Bursar's office, of course, does not open until 8:30. Very convenient for all involved.

I truck over to the bursar's office and wait outside the door, beside a young woman growing hysterical on the phone. Obviously a new freshman, obviously upset, I ask her if I can help. Turns out she had a last minute drop/add, knows the class she's supposed to be in is in this building, but doesn't know where. No computer terminals for her to log into the student system and look at a copy. She, near tears, asks a woman walking into the bursar's office (whose windows are taped opaque - nice welcome, that), and the reply is a brusque "Sorry, honey, can't help you. Looks like you're out of luck." Woman walks into office, and locks door behind her.

Bucket. Of. Fail.

My reaction (which was likely obvious on my face) was a giant WTF. I tell now-crying girl she can call Valarie at the reference desk and give her instructions on how to log into the system for her, if she doesn't mind giving up her password. Girl thinks this is too complicated - so do I. Hmm. The freshman now decides at 10 minutes past she is too late and will just skip the class. I barge into the Disbursement office, and ask if anyone can give this poor girl computer access or look up her schedule, and a nice woman says yes. Girl soon dashes off to class with a wave and a "thank you so much," so, yay, my job done.

Not really. Did I mention I was already in a mood when I got over there?

Bursar's office opens up and lo and behold, who is chitchatting with her bursarial comrades than Rude Lady. I walk up to Rude Lady's window and inform her that I was appalled at her treatment of an obviously new and upset student when it would have taken 2 minutes of her time, and that as a faculty member, I thought she set a really terrible example for anyone who might have seen it. I told her that her customer service was an embarrassment to every UTC employee and that I was glad I worked at the library where we take our influence on students seriously. (I was already cranky about a number of other things. And I realize it was not my place to chastise a staff member I don't supervise. But I really was horrified at her callousness.) I paid for my card replacement and left, still steamed.

Now, I understand the stresses of working at an office like the bursar, or the registrar, or admissions. People come in making demands you can't help them with for a variety of reasons, most of them the customer's fault. I've been there, I know all about this. But in addition to actually doing the work of bill collecting and such, customer service is also part of your job. Feel superior to people later when you're off work, or on your lunch hour. But if someone has a simple request that it doesn't hurt you to help them with, why wouldn't you? It makes you look like an ass in front of any other faculty or staff that see you, and you upset a brand new student who is still trying to find her way around.

UGH, people. If you cannot be civil and help, get out of the service position you are in. You're not doing us as an institution any favors. And you never know if someone who sees an exchange like this is going to blog about it, and mention that while the one lady in the bursar's office is a complete witch, the disbursements office seems to be filled with friendly, helpful folks. Mental note made.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Great Big Dose of Completely Inappropriate

I would like to report a great big fat FAIL on the part of's so-called "career coach." If you read the story "Grad School Juggling," here, you'll note a desperate single mom wondering about how to deal with her newfound singledom and her grad schooling while dealing with a three year old child. The advice from the so-called 'career coach' Tedra Osell includes such snippets as allowing a child to run around the classroom and throw confetti while she lectures and leaving her toddler in the hallway to run up and down to burn off his energy, and calling professors who don't like you bringing your tot to class on a regular basis "assholes." No mention of fellow grad students who might be miffed at this set-up.

Um. Yeah. Seriously, read it.

It's really fantastic in a way. I mean, who ever thought you could fit *so much* bad advice into a single post? Since apparently they're vetting comments on the actual post, I'm going to give some reaction here, like you were hoping I would.

  • "If he’s the obedient type, as my son was, you can let him leave the room and run up and down the hall if he gets antsy". Um, lady? I wouldn't leave my purse unattended in the hallway, much less my three year old son (if I had one). Also, this is great - if you ignore the fact that in most universities there will be other classes going on down that hallway, as well as administrative offices and faculty offices. You don't think having an unattended three year old tear-assing up and down the hallway would be distracting, not to mention calling-of-child-protective-services worthy? This gets two fails: Parenting FAIL and Member of Academic Community FAIL.

  • "Ask the professors if you can bring your son." Needless to say, any prof teaching graduate courses worth his/her salt will say no. Unless it is an emergency and other arrangements simply cannot be made, bringing your toddler to class is disruptive and distracting, not only to the professor, but to other students who have the right to the distraction-free education that they signed up for when they entered the program.

  • "If he can entertain himself with crayons and paper or quiet toys, then let him. If you have a laptop (or if a classmate does and is willing to bring it to class), you can plug the kid into a set of earphones and let him watch a DVD during class." Unless your three year old has a better attention span than most 18 year olds I know, this is not going to work. Also, what self-respecting GRADUATE student (who generally, by definition, is poor, poor, poor) is going to let some sticky-fingered 3 year old goober all over his expensive (or, more likely, clunky, outdated and barely performing) laptop? Dream on, lady.

  • "Find out which profs aren’t assholes, but feel free to impose even on the assholes once or twice—it’s good for them. If the chair is a good sort, enlist his or her help and backing. Ditto your advisor. With them behind you, the asshole profs will have to suck it up. Hoo, doggy. Yes, this is excellent advice if you want to finish up your degree and get the recs you need to get a job. Any professor who says no to a toddler in the classroom is an asshole? Lovely. Yes, I'm certain it has nothing to do with their concern about the quality of the class, the distraction an energetic child makes, and that sort of thing. No, they're just crochety assholes who prefer their stuffy graduate classrooms to have a sense of decorum and professionalism. How dare they! We may as well call them sexist, too, since they are apparently against the plight of single mothers everywhere. Please see bullet #2. Also, a quick note: as not only a faculty member but a constant grad student, I would be VERY suspicious of the quality of any graduate program where the director allowed this sort of thing, really.

  • "If you’re teaching, same advice: obviously you don’t want your son there so much that he becomes a huge distraction, and if he can’t behave reasonably well — not perfectly, but reasonably — then don’t bring him, but I brought mine and let him run around behind me tearing up paper and throwing confetti while my students and I sat around the seminar table" - Um, no. No no no. I don't know what sort of Mickey Mouse college Osell was teaching at that allowed this, but no. If a child running around behind you tearing paper and throwing confetti is not a distraction to your students, I have a comment on your teaching: UR DOIN IT WRONG. As a student or colleague, I would also have some really great video captured on my phone that i would immediately upload to YouTube and send to the department chair, dean, and university president, with a note that asked whether this was why my tuition got hiked 6%+ this year.

  • Feel free to bring your son to ANY meetings you do have to attend. If he gets antsy, take him out of the room, just like you do at restaurants. Anyone who doesn’t like it can kiss your full-time grad student single-mama ass, and anyway, it might help keep meetings short." Way to be professional. Walking out of a meeting multiple times with your rugrat is *not* just like at a restaurant, unless the folks at the table with you are also the ones judging your worth as a future professional and writing your recommendations. And no, it won't keep meetings short - "to-do" lists do not get shorter because you bring a child with you, you'll just force everyone else to stay longer and talk about your complete inappropriateness as you go outside to lecture your child. Who is 3 and will in no way internalize or understand said lecture.

  • "you’re being a great colleague and a good teacher to all of us by not hiding away." No, no you most certainly are not, if you are following Osell's advice. You are being a completely inconsiderate colleague to the folks who are rolling their eyes at your child rambling alone and unsupervised up and down the corridor. You are being an awful teacher, allowing severe distractions to disrupt your teaching space and your student's (supposed) learning. (Likely they are learning the increased importance of prophylactics.) Following Osell's advice is a death-knell - she should be told that if she decides this is the way to fight the feminist battle for single working/schooling moms, that they would rather she stayed home and kept her awful opinions to herself.

Interestingly enough, Osell makes no note of the many graduate schools who have implemented special leave programs for grad schooling parents who hit times of hardship and need some time off to deal without getting dinged by the program (which will usually have a time limit). Many students and faculty have worked hard to get these policies implemented so that parents don't have to feel like it's either/or, kids versus schooling, and so they can have the necessary time to take a breath, make arrangements, and stay sane. Shame on Osell for promoting the idea that academia is not a profession to take seriously, for promoting neglect and unsupervised travels by toddlers, and most of all, for giving awful advice that will actually harm the academic career of whomever listens to her. Academia is a world where word-of-mouth is paramount, and if you become known as a serious troublemaker or "that kooky lady who brings her screaming kid to both the classes she takes and those she teaches," good luck ever finding a decent job.