Monday, December 28, 2009

2010: Resolutions

New year resolutions. This is usually my opportunity to make a list of "rules" which it will take me all of a week (sometimes less) to break. And so, in the interest of making this a useful exercise for me, as well as something that is more meaningful to me than "lose 50 pounds," I have decided to change how I do this. I am not making rules. Instead, I have developed a set of *guidelines* to help me make decisions I will be happy with. I want to be a positive influence, a generator of good energies and comfortable in my own skin while happy with my life. (Don't we all?) One of my closest friends, Mary Chimato, says on a regular basis, "You get back what you put out there." I want to be more conscious of what I am putting out. I want to have some touchstones for when things get wonky and I become unsure. And so, I give you my resolutions for 2010:

Resolution 1: Concentrate on the happy. Work to make self more of an optimist and channel for positive energy, actively work to decrease exposure to negative influences and energies.

Resolution 2: Concentrate on the healthy. When I eat better and exercise, I *feel* better - i feel stronger, more capable, I sleep better, I get sick less often. Yes, it takes effort, and time. But my feelgood, my mental & physical health, and my life balance is worth it.

Resolution 3: Concentrate on the love. Focus my energy on what I love about my work, my friends, my family, my home, and myself. Expand the love bubble by trying new and interesting things, staying in better touch with those I love, and meeting new folks.

Resolution 4: Concentrate on the experience: there are things I want to try and have been putting off for various reasons. Oil painting, figure drawing, brushing up on some foreign languages (spanish, italian), reading the Russian poets, doing some translation work in poetry, earning a doctorate. (Dare I add, dating?) I will not shrink from these.

Resolution 5: Concentrate on generosity - both toward others and toward myself, and in terms of not just "things" but also time and energy.

Resolution 6: Concentrate on clarity. Practicing yoga, keeping the apartment relatively clutter-free, having a dedicated writing space, and working on keeping work separate from home all helps me to keep a clear head and feel in control of my time.

All in all, a useful set of guidelines, I think, and a list I'll be able to come back to as touchstones to see how I am faring through the next year.

I hope everyone has a happy, prosperous and healthy 2010, and that your resolutions center around your happiness and not your waistline :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

When You Think of Great Service - A Dog's Tale

What do you think about when you think of great service?

In Access & Delivery Services, this is the question I try to keep at the forefront of my mind when training staff and when dealing with my patrons. Great service is the difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary. It is the difference between a minor hassle and convenience. It may be the thing that makes someone's day and causes them to talk about you, blog about you, twitter about you, or send a really nice thank you note to you or your boss.

When I think of great service, I often recall the story about a woman who had intended to return her shoes to Zappos, the shoe mecca, but her mother died. A Zappos rep contacted her about the delay of her return, and not only arranged to deal with pickup of the shoes (against corporate policy), but sent flowers. The story is available here on Consumerist. It was such a strong display of simple humanity and kindness that I remember it often. That is above-and-beyond great service.

Today, Otto (who many of you know as my beloved basset hound of doom) presented a huge tennis-ball sized lump beneath the right side of his jaw. I, a doting puppymama, was horrified. Tumorcancerabcessdeathomg-thoughts sort of horrified. (You have heard of crazy cat ladies? Well, I am a crazy dog lady. Otto is my constant companion and only child, essentially.) Payday rolls around once a month for we university folks, and of course, what with the holidays and such, there's no way I was going to be able to afford to drag him in to the emergency clinics. I called them all anyway - cash or credit up front required, initial charge $15-$200, plus $500 and over for any testing and/or procedures. Cue the stressbarf. I emailed my usual vet, where Otto boards when I am away and does doggy daycare on occasion to set up an appointment for payday, hoping he didn't hatch an alien from his lymph nodes before December 22nd. I expected an email back Monday, when the vet re-opened.

Imagine my surprise when my gmail account coughed up a reply at 7:34pm, obviously past the noon closing time, long before the office reopens at 7:30am on Monday morning. Imagine my *greater* surprise to read the following:

Dear Ms. Harris,

We can certainly see Otto on Monday, December 21st. We have an opening at 8:40am or you could drop him off for the day and pick him up later that afternoon. If you think the lump is uncomfortable or cannot wait until the 21st, we can see him sooner and hold a payment until the following week. We do not want him to be uncomfortable. Just let us know.

Staff of KAMC
Kildaire Animal Medical Center

I was flabbergasted. I have never heard of such a thing. Otto now has an 8:30am Monday morning appointment with his vet, and I feel much less like I am killing my dog by having to wait to get him in. I already loved my veterinary staff and docs at KAMC - Otto is the only dog I know who runs *towards* the office rather than away from it, they treat him so well. I was already a loyal customer because of the nice treatment we had received in the past and the friendly staff. This, though - well, this is, as they say, "a whole 'nother level." This is great customer service. This is why I will not consider another vet, and will tell all my local friends to trust their furbabies to these folks. Because I was treated as not just another person with another want, but with compassion and understanding.

Thank you, Kildaire Animal Medical Center. You are a shining example to those of us who provide services to others. And I (and Otto) appreciate it. I am considering this an early Christmas gift, and am quite sure it will be the best one I receive.

Happy holidays to all, and please think on this - what have you done in your service provision to really make someone feel like you cared? How have you shown *your* customers/patrons/users/clients that they are more than just numbers on a spreadsheet, dollars on the bottom line, or transaction statistics?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Computers in Libraries: Here We Come!

In a bout of fabulous good news, I got an email from Jane Dysart today confirming a speaking gig Mary Chimato & I pitched for the Computers in Libraries 2010 conference. Mark your calendars for Wednesday, April 14th - we'll be presenting on Track E (Learning: Expanding our Knowledge) at 10:30am. Description of Track and of our preso slot below:

Track E - Learning: Expanding our Knowledge

It's critical for library staff and library patrons to be life-long learners, gaining new understanding and new skills. This track focuses on ways of engaging staff and users in learning activities, leveraging technologies and exciting their minds. Moderated by Jill Hurst-Wahl, Hurst Associates.


E301 Staff Development: Soft Skills, Firm Results

Janie Hermann, Program Coordinator, Princeton Public Library

Colleen Harris, Associate Head, Access & Delivery Services and Mary Chimato, Head, Access & Delivery Services, North Carolina State University Libraries

What does it take to create information fluency in library staff in an increasingly technological environment? How do we best blend the so-called "soft" skills such as teamwork, active listening, and decision-making with the "hard" technical skills expected of today's library staff when we have to train across boundaries of race, gender, age and technical agility? Hermann looks at how, despite diminishing budgets, to hold innovative Staff Development Days and offer other staff development opportunities throughout the year that actively teach technology and other important skills while engaging all staff in the learning process. Harris and Chimato discuss the managerial skills necessary for library staff who must adapt to rapidly changing technologies, and how to help your staff develop and maintain the technical skills your library needs to keep its competitive edge.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Random Passing Thoughts

Random thoughts with little (or no) connection to anything. because this is the internet, and I can do stuff like this.

  • I checked a Kindle (original version, not DX) out from the NCSU Libraries and took it with me to Louisville. As a booklover, I was skeptical, but it was actually quite nifty to not have to pack 14 paperbacks with me for my traveling and multiple flights. I can see checking out the Kindle when I do some traveling, but at home I found I still prefer an actual page-turny book. Still, it was a nice test drive. Not yet willing to blow a few hundred bucks on it, but I now understand the attraction better.

  • Deciding between doing what makes you happy and doing what makes you a responsible adult is difficult. Even more difficult? Debating with yourself about what makes you happy. And then trying to figure out if you're willing to take the leaps to make that happy happen... /mindboggle

  • We don't give managers enough credit. If I had known how mentally and emotionally exhausting it was to manage people, I'd've brought my old bosses cookies on a regular basis, and wouldn't have been so flip about criticizing their decisions. (Well, maybe I would have been, but I'd have added more compassion.)

  • My favorite current commercial: the Geico talking pothole commercial. "I don't HAVE a cellphone! 'Cause, I'm a pothole?" *snicker*

  • You know the old "If a tree falls in the forest..." question. But, if a library service disappears, and nobody notices it, was it a service at all? If a book is written and nobody reads it, does it count?

  • I just finished the latest degree (MFA in Writing), and start the next (MS in Technical Communication) in January 2010. I then found myself coveting the JD, and have an acceptance letter into an EdD in Higher Education Administration program. I am also noticing that I haven't really been thinking about what I'd *do* with all of these, just that I like the comfort of letters after my name. It makes it look like I know what I'm talking about.

  • I wonder if having pets helps us expand our natural compassion-reservoirs for other humans, or if the patience we exhibit with our furbabies helps us be more patient with other people. if so, I may need another dog *grin*

  • Lots of writing to do - I have four book chapters due with varying deadlines but none later than March 31, 2010, and a book contract with a finished manuscript deadline of July. And I have two poetry manuscripts I want to polish off and start sending out - one with a deadline of February and the other with a May deadline (both self-imposed).

  • Super-random: the smell of mint makes me happy. Peppermint and spearmint. It relaxes me. If you spritz me with mint, I may well fall asleep where I stand. But I'd do it with a smile on my face. (Oddly enough, the Moonlight Sonata has a similar effect on me.)

  • A month or two away from buying a new desktop. The wee little lappy just doesn't get me into the writing zone.

  • The colder it gets, the more attractive the Snuggie becomes. I would love one in a black and white moo-cow print. I adore cows. And moose. But I doubt there's a moose Snuggie in the works. I would like to break the bun-wearing librarian stereotype and become the Snuggie-wearing librarian.

  • This ends the randomness for today. I'm stretching some unused bloggy muscles *grin*

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why I Do What I Do

Because students like NCSU's Jake Goldbas write student newspaper articles like this, in the North Carolina State University student paper, The Technician.

Because when he says, "In fact, every time I have been to the library, I’ve made my life better. I don’t think I can say that about any other place I’ve been to", it means I, my staff, and my colleagues are doing it right. And it gives me the energy to come back and keep doing it.

Thanks, Jake. This is the nicest thing I've read all month *grin*.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Heartfelt Request

A heartfelt request to all of you budding young professionals out there on the job hunt:

Please do not use clip art in your resumes.

I am not sure for what sort of position that would be appropriate. I can't think of any, offhand. Unless it is original art you've digitized and are including as proof of your skillz, but that is not what I am seeing.

Seriously. No clip art. And no fonts that look like kindergartener handwriting.

I thought Comic Sans was the worst. You've proven me wrong. For real, people. The mind, it boggles. And my eyes, they burn.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Maximum Absorption, Slight Discomfort, Success Imminent

No, not a tampon commercial. I'm just talking about the past few weeks in Access & Delivery at the North Carolina State University Libraries. Over the summer, we closed our Media & Microform Center (MMC) due to budget cuts, which required reallocating staff into different positions and absorbing the service into the daily routines of the rest of Circulation. Moving the collections, documenting (and in some cases, rewriting) policies and procedures, and training the old/new staff member for their new roles in ADS has been time consuming, but ultimately rewarding. The time spent preparing for and dealing with the changes has paid off, and the service has been absorbed with minimal (but notable - and fixable) hitches.

Access & Delivery is also the new locale for all of the NCSU Libraries' technology lending, which used to reside in our Learning Commons. We were lucky enough to also get the previous staff member who helped manage the service to move into ADS. Unlike the MMC move, this one happened just as the semester began, without months and months of preparation, as we had for the MMC. However, being the transactional creatures we are in ADS, if it has a barcode on it, we can circulate the sucker. more absorption of policies and procedures, with some rewriting and a good bit of training, and we took off running with this service, too. Another batch of interesting kinks and procedural tweaks to work out, but so far the move has been a success. With both tech lending and core textbooks (not to mention the usual to and fro of those checking out traditional materials), our desk has been hopping.

Ah, yes. Core textbooks. NCSU Libraries place a copy of every required textbook for university classes on reserve behind the circ desk. No, I am not kidding. Yes, the students love it. Yes, we drown in traffic. Yes, we love feeling needed and being swamped means we are doing our job and providing necessary services. And I say "we" because everyone in the department works the service desk - the department head, myself, all the librarians, even the folks in the ILL unit come over and lend a hand. We run a 24/5 (plus weekends) operation, and we have two - count them, two - service desks - an exit desk (single person) and a main desk, where we often have all five terminals staffed and still see incredible lines of patrons. This requires an extraordinary amount of manpower.

It has been incredible to see such a large institution be so nimble when it comes to change and flexibility. And not just the library as a whole, which I find fascinating in its many moving parts, but the good nature of the number of staff who were reallocated due to workflow changes often caused by an anemic budget. It has been an exercise in growth for all of us, and it demonstrated the compelling reason why we need good library managers: change may be inevitable, but the skillful manipulation of circumstances to enable the library to absorb, deal with, and profit from change is not. I'm proud to be part of a library team that can make that happen with an eye toward the long-term satisfaction of our patrons.

So, this explains part of why I haven't blogged much lately. Other things, such as the Great Flying Snot-and-Vomit Flu that decimated our department for a couple of weeks and is finally dying down is another reason, as is the "trying to get things organized, flowing, and simply *done*" thing. Expect more from me soon on absorbing services, staff reallocations, and general management hoodoo. Right now I'm trying to dig myself out of the hole I've gotten myself into, and paring my inbox back down to manageable proportions.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Three Years Out of the MLS

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly life moves. While talking (well, commenting within a Friendfeed thread) with a fellow librarypal, I noted that as of this month I am three years out of the MLS. My trajectory to date:

Colleen's Timeline

August 2004: Became third shift Circulation supervisor at the University of Kentucky's William T. Young Library.

January 2005: Entered UK's School of Library & Information Science.

August 2006: Received the MS in Library & Information Science from the University of Kentucky.

August/September 2006: Became second shift Reference supervisor (still parapro).

August 2007: Became reference and instruction librarian on the tenure track at Assistant Professor rank at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

January 2009: Became Associate Head of Access & Delivery Services at the North Carolina State University Libraries.

Looking at this surprises me for a number of reasons. First, I enjoy being a creature of habit. While I don't mind change at work, it takes me a very long time to settle into a place and a personal routine, so I don't like moving all that much. Which is interesting, since I do so darn much of it. Secondly, some of the jobs I've left to get where I am were jobs I genuinely enjoyed, and it was an even shoot as to whether I should leave or stay. It always surprises *me* when I make the decision to move on, since I consider myself someone who prefers to be static, but my friends usually assume I'm moving on, when given the choice.

Finally, it surprises me because while getting my MLS, my intent was to get a reference and instruction position, be good at it, keep it until I died or retired, and spend my free time working on other master's degrees for fun. It looks like I've strayed a bit in the career area, if not the further schooling area. I can't even say "Oops," as I'm enjoying the crazy rodeo that is ADS at NCSU.

I wonder what the next three years will look like...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Who has a Library of Congress Authority Record?

Who has two thumbs and a Library of Congress Authority Record?

I Have a Library of Congress Authority Record! *points at self with thumbs* (You knew that was coming, right?)

Available for viewing here, but I'm just going to post the darn thing, as it is a personal triumph. One of those goals I said I wanted to hit by 30. (As I'm only 2 months into 30, I'll fudge it and consider this achieved.)

LC Control Number: no2009123584
HEADING: Harris, Colleen S.
000 00387nz a2200145n 450
001 7981489
005 20090812005457.0
008 090810n| acannaabn |n aaa c
010 __ |a no2009123584
035 __ |a (OCoLC)oca08199861
035 __ |a (DLC)7981500
035 __ |a (DLC)no2009123584
040 __ |a ViU |b eng |c ViU
100 1_ |a Harris, Colleen S.
670 __ |a God in my throat, c2009: |b t.p. (Colleen S. Harris)

Big thanks to Anne, the Cataloging Goddess at NCSU who has not only kept me updated along the way, but delivered me printouts of my MARC record, of my book's display in NCSU's catalog, in WorldCat, and today emailed me about the authority record. Every writer should have their own personal cataloging angel to let them know when they've achieved immortality ;)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

God in my Throat Hits the NCSU Library Shelves!

I am tickled to death to report that God in my Throat: The Lilith Poems, my very first book, has been fully processed and is available at the NCSU Libraries! If you really want to, you can view my NCSU Libraries record here, or my WorldCat record here. (Okay, I realize no one but myself will likely get a kick out of that *grin*).

I do plan to get my MARC record printed on parchment and framed (beware: dork on display!) sometime in the near future.

If you've managed to escape my many posts of how to get your hands on a copy, you can snag your very own by ordering here. A number of my very favorite library peeps have sent me pictures of themselves holding a copy - expect those to start being peppered through posts. Want to be featured? Just toss me an email with your pic (if you don't know it, send me a comment). No real fame or reward involved, just the good vibes that come with making me happy *grin*.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tackling Some Library Management Fallacies

Let's debunk some common misperceptions about library management. These are relatively simple ones that I think I'm qualified to tackle given my recent 8 months as a midlevel manager and my years as a librarian and a parapro before this position. Here's hoping some lessons I've learned will help out some other folks.

Fallacy 1. You will be able to run all of the committees that impact your work.

It's just not feasible. There's so much overlap in library work, there's no way you'll be able to prepare for all contingencies, nor are you qualified to do so. In my own instance, my department works quite closely with Metadata & Cataloging, Collection Management, Acquisitions, Research & Information Services...okay, let's not kid ourselves. Access works quite closely with everyone since we're usually the spot the patron hits first. But *all* library departments impact the patron. And no, I'm not interested in staging a coup so I can run the whole library. It's nice to have a department rep on committees that impact you, but sometimes that's not feasible. At times you'll just have to trust that others on those committees that will impact you will let you know the info you need. If you find that's not happening, mention it to your manager or department head. It can't be fixed if no one knows what's wrong. But the solution isn't you running everything, unless you're the director. (And even then, you're managing resources at a completely different level.)

Take a deep breath. Let go of the control freak inside for a little bit. If you were on all the committees that impacted your work, you'd have no time to do your actual job for all the meetings you'd be in. This requires trust in others and accepting that yes, occasionally mistakes and miscommunications will happen. But like my bosslady says: we are not in an emergency room. No one is going to die if we screw up a bit in an academic library.* Take the experience, learn from it, move on. You are a *manager*.

This doesn't mean to get to run the whole show, it means that you manage your relationships, you manage change, you manage your staff and you manage fallout from mistakes. Shit happens. The library will still open tomorrow, so its best to deal with it.

(*Note: medical librarians *can* kill people, so do be careful!)

Fallacy 2. Librarians come before staff.

Nope. Not in the sense of prioritization, and not in the sense of information flow. Staff are generally the folks getting the work done, and while they may be directed by librarians, they are by no means less capable, less skilled, or less hardworking. In fact, in most cases if there was a library rapture that took only the MLS-holders to that Great Library in the Sky, most libraries would continue to function just fine. And in the interconnected environment described above, nothing is cleanly top-down in a library. Info goes from patrons to staff to librarians, librarians to staff to patrons, and every combination you can think of. (Toss in university administration and faculty and various other stakeholders and you can see why there's no definitive prescribed pipeline format for info sharing.)

Creating an artificial workaround so that staff info has to be piped through another librarian (or anyone else) before it gets to you is harmful in a number of ways, not the least of which is in service. The longer info about changes or dissatisfaction takes to reach you, the longer it takes you to address it, and this is BAD SERVICE to your community.

I think this fallacy is a direct relation of Fallacy 3.

Fallacy 3. Librarians are librarians and professionals, parapros are parapros and staff, and not only never the twain shall meet, but the MLS means I'm more important.

I would love to know where this one came from. I've worked in academic libraries my entire career (since I was 18 if you count my workstudy in college), and this view seems pervasive, especially at larger libraries. I can say from experience that my staff and non-MLS supervisors are some of the hardest working folks I know (and I can also attest I've known quite a few librarians who seem to get by just fine hiding in their cubicles beneath the fireproof tenure cloak). A few points on this: increasingly, parapros are doing the work previously done by librarians. How many of you work at libraries where staff and even students work the reference desk? I thought so. And if all your staff walked out, would you be able to run your library? I didn't think so. And, what gets my goat most of all, if that most of the librarians I know **started** as parapros! I know *I* did, and I think it gave me a great advantage - I knew exactly what I was getting into, and I had a form grasp of how library underpinnings worked before I became a "professional" librarian.

Yes, our work might be slightly different, but it's no more or less important. At this point in the economic downturn, unimportant jobs have been cut or consolidated and none of us are useless. Unless, that is, we're not doing our actual jobs. The MLS qualifies you for certain positions requiring the degree, it does not make you more important or a better person. Get over yourself. You want me to be impressed? Shuck your buns at work. Implement new services. Help your staff deal with change productively. Create a great working environment. Clean up the problem spots and messes in your department. Do not waggle your professional status at me and expect me to be impressed. All you'll manage to do by insisting on this divide between your self and staff is piss off a large contingent of the useful library workforce. Staff/parapros/whatever you want to call folks who work in libraries *do not have cooties*. The lack of an MLS is not catching, if that's what you're worried about.

In fact, what *are* you worried about? That folks will stage a coup and take over your work? Well, if you can't demonstrate why you are better equipped to handle it than they are, then the MLS doesn't seem to hold it's weight or deserve the importance you place on it, does it? I know, ouch. I'm sorry, that's harsh. But it's true.

Fallacy 4. People should be able to read my mind and know what I need and when I'm unhappy with things.


This one gets my panties in a bunch. Unless they've been teaching mindreading in school with NCLB, you cannot expect people to know when you're displeased with something unless you speak up about it. Don't mope about and expect us to guess. (It's like having a relationship with a teenager!) If it's a topic that tends to get you upset, I recommend making some notes or an outline of what you want to discuss to help keep you from getting sidetracked. Find the person who can actually make the change you need (bitching to colleagues doesn't do anything but poison the work environment if it's someone else who has to make things happen). A good rule of thumb: if you're not doing anything about fixing it, you can't complain about it. If you complain about it, you should have a workable solution in mind to bring to the table. And this rolls into #5:

Fallacy 5. Everyone hates their job. Some just suck less than others, so I'll deal with it.

Nay, nay, nay! Yes, there are craptastic jobs. (Personally, I don't think librarianship is one of them.) Mostly, though, there are craptastic environments. Again, I say: fix it. Create the space/attitude/culture you want to work in. No, it doesn't always work. If it doesn't work and things are still miserable: you. Need. To. Leave. Do not reward that workplace with your labor if it is so awful. Yes, job hunting is a pain. But so is vomiting every day before work. And if you are going to spend 40-plus (and usually plus) hours in your work environment every week - a large chunk of your life - it had better be someplace that doesn't make you want to commit seppuku. I say again: leave toxic environments after making good-faith efforts to change them. Life is too short. There are other libraries. And if you're miserable, the people around you at work and at home are likely picking up on your misery vibes.

Oh, I'm sure there are more. So let's make this just the initial post, and see what you all have to say...

Centre College for the Win!

Forbes just ranked my alma mater #14 among all institutions. Pardon me while I cheer for that tiny little Kentucky college that helped make me the person I am today. *grin*

I'm proud to be a Centre College alum - the individual attention I received there, the ridiculously small classes (I think my largest class during my undergrad career was freshman humanities, which had a whopping 21 students in it), and the dedicated faculty and staff make it a real gem. It may not make sense to put out for that sort of price for an undergraduate education, but Centre would be my first recommendation for any student who goes for their bachelor's with the intent to move on to any significant graduate work. I enjoyed myself, but the academics were extremely rigorous. (To the point where a number of the graduate programs I've completed since have been slightly anticlimactic.)

I can also say that after having worked at a number of colleges and universities since graduation, that personal attention and stellar customer service make an impact. (Not that Centre would ever use so cold and corporate a term as "customer service" - the terms we used were "community" and a "genuine shared interest in student success," and so forth.) I graduated in 2001, but when I go back, my professors ask about my life and how my parents are doing. President Roush still works out at the gym beside the students. Jan St. Pierre from the Registrar's office greets me by name at the Homecoming football game. (In my day, we registered for classes in person with registration forms signed by our advisors. We would take our sleeping bags to be close to the front of the line to get the sections we wanted and camp out. Thus is life at a college full of nerdtastic goodness.) I know that sounds silly, but when the registrar remembers you 8 years later? That's ridiculous, in the most fabulous sense.

Centre is a great example of how "customer service" isn't something that's done grudgingly to keep folks from complaining, it has been embraced as a way of life in all aspects of the campus community. It's not thought of as part of anyone's "job," but as an integral part of the academic and social community. I refuse to believe that this is only possible at very small institutions. (I am realistic enough to know that it is likely more difficult to develop at a huge institution, though.)

Anyway, these are just random thoughts. Yes, Centre may be the best value out there, and the best education out there, but what I remember most is it being the best *experience* - I made some of my best friends there, and that is where I saw professors being the sort of faculty members I wanted to be - nurturing and challenging, friendly and energetic.

I believe I would have walked a very different path if I had gone to another college or university, and every time someone at the University of Kentucky, Emory, StonyBrook, or North Carolina State University asks me my student number, I feel a pang of homesickness for Centre. Because my roots are where everybody knew my name, and where "customer service" wasn't a face people put on at work, it really was the way life was conducted. This is what I want to figure out how to accomplish in my library. That sense of welcome, of camaraderie, of 'we are all a part of this.' That is the challenge. Hooray for Centre for giving us a great example.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Help the Louisville Public Library

As reported in the Courier-Journal, Louisville was hit hard by rain on Tuesday morning, devastating the main public library.

I happen to have a particular affection for the LPL as a Kentuckian at heart (I lived there for a number of years, getting my MLS from UK and currently completing my MFA at Spalding University, which is right across the street from LPL), and as a pal of Greg Schwartz. (Check out that Schwartz link for his pics of the damage, which are devastating.)

Steve Lawson has put out a call to help the Louisville Public Library. Donations of any amount are welcome to help offset the damage that was done to the collection.

Steve's 24-hour update put the collection at a whopping $1295 - not a bad one-day take in the pursuit of the $5000 goal. After so many of you helped me to save Otto's eyes with your generosity and donations towards his surgery, I thought it couldn't hurt to pass this along. Every little bit helps, and a thousand people giving $5 each creates a whopping donation.

If you are interested in giving, but would rather donate directly to the library without any intermediaries, the address is:

The Library Foundation
Attn: Flood
301 York St.
Louisville, KY 40203
(502) 574-1709

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Preliminary Thoughts from a Search Committee Member

Having spent the last few months on my very first academic librarian search committee at NCSU, I've found it has been an invaluable experience seeing the application and decision-making process from the inside. Some of my previous ideas were confirmed. Some things I hadn't thought about overmuch came up. All in all, it has been a great experience (and one that's not over yet!).

Some things I'd like to share with those on the job hunt, or considering it, from my perspective as a committee member. Of course, my opinions are mine alone, and don't represent those of my employer, my friends, colleagues, coworkers, staff, management, or anyone else on the planet. I hope someone finds these items helpful:

1.We do not believe you have attention to detail when you have spelling and grammatical errors.

Nope. This one's too easy, and there is ZERO excuse for it, especially when you can share your app letters with friends via Google Docs and ask for editing advice. It may be mean, but the committee works hard and appreciates the levity of your “pubic” library experience, but it tarnishes even the most qualified of candidates. Is that fair? Maybe not. But think about this: you'll be emailing students, faculty, library staff in other departments and administration. You'll likely be developing text for services, policies and procedures, library signage, and the intranet or public web page. This is basic and ridiculous but I cannot reinforce enough how much this counts. The way you present yourself counts, whether in meatspace or textually. And if my first impression of you is going to be based on text, that text had better have as few errors as possible for me to want to bring you in. This advice appears on the NEWLIB list every so often, in speeches and advice by veteran librarians, in articles, in blogposts, and echoes throughout the hallowed halls of SLIS schools and email lists everywhere. PLEASE LISTEN.

Along with this, be careful of template letters for application batching. Committees get applications stating the applicant wants to work at (completely different) University in (completely different) capacity, or addressed to my good friend who works at a university a few states over with a job in a similar capacity. To the committee, it makes us feel like you're just saying “I love you” to get in our pants without knowing our names. *sniff* At least try to make us feel like we're the only ones. You can bring up your other offers when we make an offer and you're at the negotiation stage.

2.Do. Not. Waste. Our. Time. We are Very Important People with Work To Do.

Too many unqualified folks apply for jobs where they do not meet the “required” qualifications. If you do not meet the required qualifications for a posted position, I highly recommend you not apply. Particularly with state institutions, if you do not meet the minimum required qualifications, we cannot legally hire you. If the search dies due to no applicants, most times the position has to be re-posted with new qualifications listed. By applying, you bloat the applicant pool, we have to spend our time scouring your materials to try to find why you thought you were qualified, and this frustrates us mightily. You do not want me to associate your name with “time-wasting.” And it just may be the case that a position could open up later that you are qualified for. Don't tarnish your name. If you have any question at all about whether or not lacking a particular requirement puts you out of the pool, I'd so much rather you contact us and ask for clarification than put the effort into an application I have to shred.

A lot of folks will give you advice to apply and take the shot even if you're slightly interested but not really qualified. By applying for a librarian position that clearly states that it requires an ALA-accredited MLS when you don't have that qualification, you are wasting the search committee's valuable time. The committee has to comb through your letter of application and resume, figuring that you just didn't make it clear enough how you met the requirements. When we find that you have no master's degree at all, we get grumpy, as we couldn't ask you in even if we wanted to because you did not meet the specified minimum requirements. If you are a cataloging librarian applying for an IT position, back it up with a knowledge base. If you are a reference and instruction librarian applying for a head of tech services position, you better have some serious skills and experience in your arsenal for me to take you seriously. We have departments to run and work to do with too few resources, and we get crabby when you waste our time. So, please to not do that.

3.Make it clear how you are qualified.

Use your cover letter and the organization of your resume/CV to your advantage by highlighting the required and preferred qualifications of the position you're applying for. Don't make me try to fill in the gaps with my imagination. I have bucketloads and bucketloads of candidates to slog through to figure out who will be the best fit for my institution, and then I go to the committee meeting to give my opinion on applicants and hear everyone else's. I am going to appreciate those who make it a point to tailor their materials to make themselves look like the best candidate when we get into committee and start discussing you all. I'll never forget that in my first position as a librarian, the head of my department let me know that there were nearly 200 applicants for my position. That's a lot of applications to slog through. Many committees simply make a matrix of the required and preferred qualifications and use checkmarks – if you leave it unclear as to whether or not you meet a required qualification, you could be bumped out of the running. (This also falls under that pesky “ability to communicate clearly” requirement a lot of folks toss into descriptions now. Consider yourself warned.)

4.Make good judgments on who you decide to use as professional references.

Did you let these folks know ahead of time about that job you were applying for? Nothing like a phone call from out of the blue to let your current boss know you're on the job hunt. Did you speak to these folks and ask them if they'd be willing to give you a glowing recommendation that would make someone want to hire you? It's always horrible to make a reference call and get the “No, I would not ever hire that person again, or let them near my children or pets, and dear God don't subject your staff to this person” response. It takes all that “excellent judgment” you talk about in your cover letter and turns it to ash, really.

Inform people that you will be using them as references, its only polite. Actually, polite is asking them if you may use their name as a reference. Give them the chance to say no so that they dont give you a lukewarm yes. A lukewarm recommendation is nothing that thrills a committee, either. Doublechecking the professional reputations of your references isn't amiss, either, if you're not certain about them. The company you keep and the person you tie your professional reputation to is telling.

5.Don't be a PITA.

A committee is, by definition, made up of multiple people. In a search for an academic librarian, the folks usually come from across departments within the library, and occasionally across colleges. Arranging meetings that include folks with incredibly disparate schedules is a chore, but I'll tell you this: the committee wants to make a hire (if only so the folks can go back to doing non-committee work). They want the hire to be a good one, since they'll have to work beside this person for the foreseeable future (or until someone dies, in the case of tenure-track positions). You are not the only applicant. Emailing the HR representative or the head of the committee multiple times to check your status is inappropriate. Even if you are the most incredible thing they've ever seen, most academic libraries will require a list of at least two to three top candidates to be compiled before they set up interviews for everyone. Hang tight. If the search gets cancelled due to budget woes, we'll let you know. In the meantime, as my dad would say, “Cool your jets.” We're working on it.

In addition, “please,” “thank you,” and other politenesses are never amiss. The admin assistant or personnel librarian who arranged your travel deserves a hearty thank you for dealing with that. The folks who bring you water during your interview are doing so as a favor for your comfort. The people who show up to your open session or presentation are taking time out of their busy work schedule because they care about who is attempting to join their work team. We appreciate your time and flexibility – make it clear that you appreciate ours. (Ahem. If you are an ass, I will hear about it in candidate feedback forms. I'm just sayin'.)

6.Do not badmouth your place of work (even if it deserves it).

No matter how awful it is. Even if your supervisor is a demon and your director thinks that “intarwebs” is a kind of spider virus. Everyone has their horror story, and we'll love to hear it once you're here, but badmouthing your POW, coworkers, staff and supers makes you sound miserable and complainy. You want to put your best foot forward on the job hunt – make it sound more like you've given your POW all the awesome they could handle, and now you need some new space to increase your skills, practice new knowledge, anything...but not that your boss is slowly killing you through the nefarious use of paperwork.

7.Be enthusiastic.

I don't need for you to blow rainbows up my butt, but more than a two-sentence paragraph as your cover letter would be much appreciated. Demonstrate some enthusiasm in your application. Also, “I need a job” does not cut it. We all need jobs. Tell us why we need YOU. This probably seems commonsensical. It is incredible how many people miss this opportunity to demonstrate any sort of personality in the initial application. Take advantage of this chance to shine. Remember: we're only picking two or three to come see us in person. Make it clear that we should blow our plane ticket budget on you.

8.Make Me Take You Seriously.

Sending your application materials in comic sans is the best way for you to make me raise an eyebrow. It's great that your family lives here, but what skills do you bring to the posted position that should make my eyes gleam at the thought of getting you here? You can be creative, but be careful – there's a thin line between creative and redonkulous, and you want to be taken seriously as a professional. Comic sans is a no-no. Multiple exclamation points for no reason is a no-no. You can demonstrate your wicked karaoke-on-tequila after you're hired.

9.Be aware of your online presence.

I'll never forget in one interview, when one of the librarians picked me up from the airport he said, “I thought your hair would be longer.” You live in the wide world of Google, and your life is on display in your blog, Twitter, Friendfeed, any posts you make to others' blogs or ezine articles with an identifiable username, presentations and papers, and comments (both helpful and snarky) on various email lists. More than once on this blog I've noted that folks feel free to be themselves, occasionally to their own detriment. Beware of developing a reputation as a troll – you don't know who's lurking on those lists, and one of those folks might be on your search committee and have the power to sink your application.

I've been told more than once that this sort of advice is advocating self-censorship and stifles people. Um, in your professional life, there are certain things to stifle. Your desire to be pantsless. The language you use when you curse Oakland for losing their umptybillionth game against what should be an inferior team. And your snarky responses to fellow professionals or up-and-coming professionals in your field. Make sure your presence works for you and not against you. And if you're going to be obnoxiously opinionated (as I admit I occasionally am), know that this may cost you opportunities in the long run in the case that you ruffle some feathers and offend someone by telling people to keep their crying out of the office *grin * It's the price you pay for being yourself. Admit that it's a possibility and accept it, or be more careful of how you present yourself in the faceless, unforgiving Web.

10.Why here?

I know you need a job, we covered that. That's why you're applying. Do we do something your current POW doesn't? Why do you want to work here in particular? Have you attended presentations or read arrticles by folks you hope will be your colleagues? Give me a reason to think not just that you're awesome, but that there's a reason you want to work at my library in particular. Because I tell you what – I am not interested in having to be on another search committee in a year to hire you rreplacement unless it's because you're so awesome that you moved up in my organization.

(**A note here to apologize to the folks who hired me at my FPOW (and particularly to Mike Bell, my favorite gruff librarian with a heart of gold) – I really had planned on staying at UTC for decades, I swear I did. Ask my mom. My apologies for making you reconvene to hire my replacement! Cheeburgers on me next we see each other.)

Everyone has a stake in the new hire as an incoming member of the library community. There is so much interdepartmental work in libraries – no one is an island. As for myself, I discovered that as a member of the committee, I wanted to be sure we narrowed our search to the very best candidates for a number of reasons. First, this was a position not in my department, but in an area my department does quite a bit of business with. I was pleased to represent my department on the committee. I felt that the committee members' reputations were attached to the decisions we made during the search, and I was happy to see that everyone took it as seriously as I did while still having fun. I want my library to have the very best that is out there.

The process also impressed upon me just how faceless applicants are if they don't put much effort into their application materials. Those files (well, pieces of paper, since I'm a treekiller and printed all of them) were all I had to go on. My initial reaction after seeing the first few applicants was incredulity that I ever landed a job as just one more piece of black ink on paper a bunch of overworked folks had to agree on.

A big thank-you to all the search committees that have ever dealt with my materials. I appreciate your time and effort even more now that I've been on the flip side of the coin. It's not easy.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Forget the FailWhale - Twitter Helps Companies Jump the Shark

*Sigh*. Iris Jastram always has the very best blog posts. Well thought out, organized. (In complete opposition to my random grab bag of items.) Her latest is something everyone involved in social media - as consumer or voyeur - should take a look at. Her Best Bad Marketing Ever post is something to behold.

Social media is not like Hollywood, where infamy is just as good as fame, so long as it gets you facetime on camera. If you are a business intending to provide a service - especially in the case of the company mentioned here (I will not be linking to them nor mentioning their name - you can hit Iris's post above or go to the source and read where it all started in Nikki Detmar's Starry Ethics Fail), the only thing you have to build on initially is trust. Social media is a tool to build that trust and create rapport with those folks who might spread your message and advertise your service.

Because I'm known for stating what should be commonsense, and I do hate to disappoint, here you go:

Antagonizing the twittersphere, which is intricately connected to the blogosphere and to the info pros who help to run the info-services-purchasing-and-marketosphere (much in the way the legbone-hipbone-backbone thing works) is a great way for you to help your company jump the shark before you even hit the water. Even if your service is a useful and interesting one, nobody wants to work with - or support - an ass.

And if by chance you *do* have some fledgling employee with a deathwish who hacks your Twitter account and plasters your websites with fraudulent sponsorships and recommendations, for goodness sake, don't get all self-righteous. In fact, you could check out Management Craft's "Ten Ways To Handle Your Mistakes." Works just as well for companies as for middle managers. See particularly the "Don't try to hide mistakes" part. The internet is an elephant - it remembers.

Interesting sidenote: one of the great/awful things about the giant sticky interweb and pervasive social media: it's not just individuals who have serious troll potential anymore. And don't be fooled - like I mentioned above, on the web, the whole "any fame is good fame" thing does not apply. Just as individuals don't want their drunken pictures or their rap sheet to be their first Google hit and are starting to be more careful with how they present themselves in netspace, managers should be well aware of what image they want to portray and how their company's social media interactions will reflect. Today at 9:09EST, the fifth Google hit for the company mentioned above is David Rothman's blog post on the shitstorm, and the sixth is Denmar's post. Not a great showing. And as Denmar so deftly points out, it's not as easy to erase your Twittertracks as one might think. Going back and deleting past posts in the hopes that it'll pull it from the record is bad juju and looks hinky. Best to just admit your wrongs, offer a *sincere* apology, and start the polishing of your reputation as soon as possible. It's also best to consider everything on the web available for perpetuity and just offer retractions.

Now that we all know and love the FailWhale, maybe Twitter should come up with a shark icon for those of us who jump the shark in social media...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

An AssHead's Thoughts on Library Management

I've been thinking quite a bit about the "attitude problem" toward management that Jenica Rogers-Urbanek addressed in her July 2 post. (Ahem. Side note. If you are a librarian and/or in library management, you should add her to your feed.) Anyway, having joined the troop of those in "management" just six months ago, Jenica's post prompted some self-examination.

I'll readily admit that while I appreciate those in library management, I never actually expected to *be* one. I had planned to putter blissfully through a reference and instruction professorship into tenure. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and still miss that work. Being the AssHead of Access & Delivery at an ARL is very, very different. The parts of librarianship I prided myself on being very good at (teaching and reference) don't apply as much to the work I do now, which is mostly fielding organizational change, facilitating/adjusting/quality-controlling the work of my staff, planning service improvement and new service provision, coordinating with various library departments due to workfow connection or crossover, and the all pervasive "other."

So, why am I here in Access and in "management"? The short answers: it was a chance too good to pass up; I wanted to test my mettle in management; the folks I consider my mentors thought it would be a good match for my skillset; the salary is nice. There are a lot of short answers. But it takes a lot to move me from my comfort zone once I'm well and truly happy and feeling like I'm making a larger contribution to the educational enterprise. After long thought, the reason I decided to take this job and try my hand in management is that I have a big mouth and a lot of opinions. I have a tendency to bitch about things if I think there is a better way. And the most direct route to make things happen the way I think they should, or to at least influence the direction and culture of an organization, is to be in on the back end of planning things. I'm in management because I try to be a put-up-or-shut-up kind of person. This is to test myself to see if I'm actually good enough when put into action to make the kind of change I want to see happen, or at least facilitate the possibility for that change. If I find I am not cut out for it, at least I can say I tried my hand at it. If I find that other folks think I'm useful in my position, that I help them get done what needs doing, that I *feel* useful and that I'm contributing to making my library a more effective, efficient, and employee-friendly organization, I'll stay. If, a few years down the road, I find that my skills are not well-suited to this, I'll take the skills that *are* handy and find a better position fit.

Which is to say, I *don't* know that I'll be a success at this. (Which is hard to take, as I usually shoot for what I absolutely know I'm good at.) I know I've got a whole lot to learn, and am lucky to have a number of good friends and people I admire in management positions in libraries across the country and here at NCSU. I'm lucky in that my staff, my department head, my associate director and everyone else I deal with at work are putting up with my learning curve with grace. I am learning unfamiliar skills, including diplomacy and patience (not characteristics I am generally known for exercising on a regular basis), and maneuvering within a climate of great change.

Before, I considered myself a librarian because I did what I considered librarian-like things. I worked a desk. I liaised with faculty and students about how the library could meet their needs. I taught classes, did research, worked on committees and various library projects and presented at conferences, and when people asked what I did for a living, I told them "I'm a librarian," and was happy to do so. I considered myself an integral part of the educational mission of the university. It's been a whirlwind six months, and I find that the major shift in job duties put me off-kilter for a bit, and what I viewed as "librarianship" has changed greatly as a result. I still do all of those things, but I do them less as meetings take up more of my time, as I coordinate and oversee and delegate.

The past few months when people asked me what I did, I still told them I was a librarian, but I said it with much less conviction. More like, "a librarian. Sort of. Kind of. Not really, but I work in a library, and occasionally I do librarylike things, but mostly I'm a manager. I think." While I consider management to be essential to the efficient and effective provision of library services, being slightly removed from those services and more involved in the design of processes and internal coordination has led me to believe that I am still a librarian, simply in a different capacity. Management is not any different than librarianship - it is a matter of scale. Mary Chimato (my bosslady who blogs over at CircandServe) is a department head, but she's still a librarian. She's not a circ librarian, or a reserves librarian, or an ILL/DocDelivery librarian...but she's also not a not-librarian. Instead, I see her as an Uberlibrarian, combining all of those, overseeing all of those, and ensuring that those positions and their workflows fit holistically into the library's vision and strategy of service.

Getting back to Jenica's post, and the comments she's gotten regarding how folks could never do/want a job in management: are you sure? Are you certain you don't want to earn your chops and see if you're a good manager? Do you really think that the managers everyone has right now are doing a better job than you might? Because if not, if you think there's a better way and that you can make it happen, you might just want to try the manager shoes on. No one says you have to stay forever, but...what if you like it? What if you're good at it? You'll never know until you try. For myself, whichever way this ends up shaking out, I will never regret that I am making the attempt.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Restorative Powers of CFPs

Things have been downright crazy. May was annual evaluation time at work. Evals weren't actually due until the beginning of June, but I was out of town for my MFA residency from May 21 through May 31. (Another thing to get used to at this level of management: managing the bajillion emails that accrue when you're out of town and otherwise occupied!). My book has gone to print in the capable hands of Robert Ward at Bellowing Ark, and I couldn't be happier. (Those of you who pre-ordered weeks ago should find your copies arriving shortly.)

The past few weeks I've been struck with an odd malaise where I am utterly weary, and it's all I can do to drag myself out of bed and be as energetic as I need to be at work. I blame a confluence of factors, like the heat and humidity of summer (you'd think I haven't been living in the South for the past 10 years the way I react to this every year), utter lack of sunlight in my life *despite* it being summer, the post-residency letdown, and my lack of gymming and eating well. I am, in short, a hot mess. This has leaked into worklife a bit, and I am getting frustrated more often than usual. And so, I need a kick in the old pantalones to get myself back in proper gear.

So far, I've recommitted to healthy eating, and plan to recommit to the gym in the near future. (Like, next week. No, really this time. I swear.) Unless it starts getting sunny on the weekends, I may revisit my old fake 'n bake habit to get some color and make me feel less blergh. I'm working on worrying less about work once I'm out of the office so that I don't feel like I'm at work all the time - mostly, I've decided to use evenings as reading time instead of still-glued-to-my-laptop time, and unplugging just by that little bit has definitely helped me feel less anxious.

The other thing I've decided is that I need to do some research. Library-related research. I've been so bogged in managing staff and the day-to-dailies of meetings, crisis management and aversion, and planning for the absorption of services (like our media & microform center) that I feel I've lost touch with why I love librarianship so much. It's not that I dislike the work I do now - I do feel I'm contributing to a smoothly-running library by monitoring the quality of our customer service, streamlining processes, and collaborating with other departments. It's that I somehow feel very disconnected from the academic library as "educational institution" - likely a result of the fact that I no longer deal with research questions, nor do I teach anymore. And I miss it - a lot.

And so, recognizing this, I responded to two calls for papers today - one was a library-related call for book chapters, and the other was a call for papers about recycling myths 9which happens to be what my MFA critical thesis addressed). The book chapter one is a work-from home deal, the myth one I already have the bulk of the paper and it needs only minor additions (and the presentation locale is Wales, which would be lovely). I'm also considering tossing my hat into the ring for the AWP Pedagogy papers, I'll look at that this weekend, I think.

Yes, I deal with stress by adding work. But it's work I love, which hardly counts as "work." Plus, I decided to defer my admission tot he MS in Technical Communication to January of 2010, figuring that I can't do that *and* the MFA this fall, much as I would like to.

See? I'm working on developing some minor common sense. *grin* And hopefully, soon I'll be pleasantly busy, instead of just frazzled-y busy. I'll keep you updated about acceptances and such as I find out.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

God in my Throat is Available!

Exciting news! (Not really library-related, but it involves an ISBN. Close enough for government work.) God in my Throat, my first book of poems, is available from Bellowing Ark Press.

The short story is that it's a collection of persona poems from the perspective of Lilith, purported in some legends to be Adam's wife before Eve came along. I've slapped together a quickie website in my sloppy html with some basic info about the book, its artwork, and locales where I'll be reading.

A giant thank you to my library peeps (and to invisible internet people in geeral) for the generous and enthusiastic reception my announcements on Facebook, Twitter, and Friendfeed have received. My first ISBN is 978-0-944920-68-8. The book is available through the publisher's website, as a small press, the book will not be available on Amazon. (Support your small presses, folks! Well, as best we can, anyway, given the budget crises we're all facing.)

Anyway, I'm happy to share the other side of myself with you all. When I'm not librarianating or indulging in some form of chocolate, I'm usually curled up with a pen and notebook, trying to coax inspiration onto my lap. I wrote this in a frenzied two weeks, and spent the next six months editing and revising with the help of Greg Pape, Montana Poet Laureate and mentor extraordinaire. If you decide you'd like a copy, do let me know so I can thank you, and I hope you enjoy it. If you don't, we're still friends *grin*

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Reflection on the Darien Statements

There’s been a great deal of talk about the recently posted Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians. Kathryn Greenhill, Cindi Trainor, and John Blyberg got together and waxed a little poetic about the fundamentals of libraries and librarianship. I’m not talking earth, fire, water fundamentals…more like atoms and electrons. The absolute fundamentals. The primordial ooze and Platonic Form of Library, if you will.

I’ve done a good deal of mulling the Statements over. I’ve been wondering about this lately, about how I connect to the larger idea of Library in general and to Academic Library specifically. It was much easier when I was a reference and instruction librarian – I could easily draw the lines that connected me to student and faculty learning, improved scholarship, publication for faculty and graduation for students. I could connect myself and my work easily to the Idea of Library as Bastion of Information Record of Humanity. I was in the very mix of library use and education, and rarely, if ever, questioned my sense of belonging to the Great Library in the Sky.

Now I help manage an Access & Delivery department, and it has gotten more difficult for me to connect myself to the educational mission of the university and that sense of Library that made me want to be a librarian. We do essential work, putting a face to our library services, accomplishing deliverables and making sure that the library’s circulatory system is healthy and going at a good pace. We make sure that our patrons (mostly faculty and staff, given that we are an academic library) get what they need in timely fashion and with good customer service attached. Much of my time is spent in meetings about services, meetings touching base with other areas of the library that connect with Access, and in cajoling, wheedling, shaming, praising and berating staff. It definitely feels one floor down in the ivory tower sense of the library’s educational mission, but is just as essential for the library’s existence – what good is a library if you can’t access its various holdings, after all? But it feels grittier than classroom and research work, more coarse than selecting materials and acting as a liaison to academic departments. It’s different, and I’m still adjusting.

Anyway, all this is to say that my personal sense of where I fit into the Library has shifted as I’m getting accustomed to my new(ish) position. Then I saw the Taiga Statements, which didn’t really incur any reflection on my part other than to be thoroughly insulted that ARL institutions – um, I work at one of these – were thoroughly unabashed about how little regard they have for the work of librarians. So I said my piece about them, but I don’t take them very seriously. Except, of course, for the fact that apparently ARL muckety-mucks apparently take those statements seriously, which makes me wonder why future librarians would consider working at places that obviously don’t value their work. The Darien Statements, on the other hand, are written by three folks whose work I know, who I respect on both a personal and professional level. Their intent, rather than to cut librarians out of the action and scare the bejeebus out of us by making us fear for our livelihood, is to (as I understood the statements) make us reflect on the most basic tenets of librarianship and what the core values and mission of the library are.

It’s been interesting to see and hear reactions about the Statements. Kellat’s recent post takes a legal view of most of the statements, pointing out that the eternal Library is anything but immutable, and that underlying ideas and ideals do change over time, and how unlikely it is to be able to put these Statements into actual practice.

I would argue that the Darien Statements are not meant to be solely praxis, though where it is possible, perhaps they should be. What I’d like for people to consider are the differences between a values statement, mission statement, and vision statement. They’re intended to do and convey three very different things, (see the Wikipedia entry for Strategic Planning – there’s a good explanation there) and I think a great deal of the disgruntlement so far in the discussion about the Darien Statements is that folks are displeased that it doesn’t do the gruntwork of telling us how to make the Darien Vision of Library fact in day by day life. Initial reactions from some on the front lines sounded something like, “All well and good and very pretty, but who’s going to be assigned to throw out the drunk guy taking pictures up girls’ skirts in the West Wing?” Because this document straddles a couple of lines between values, mission, and vision, my first suggestion for future revision would be to be careful about mixing these in a single document, since it does lead to confusion. I consider this largely a values document, laying out the huge underlying foundation for why it is we do what we do – perhaps not in the legal sense of it, but in a larger "what is our purpose" sense.

To be honest, the "Role of the Library" and the "Role of Librarians" sections aren’t so terribly different from what various professional organizations provide us, or from what we learn at the feet of ye older librarians in graduate school. I think they’re very lovely in an aspirational sense, and there’s nothing wrong with striving to meet those. Meeting user needs, preserving access to information, assisting folks…yup, sounds like the basic job description of a librarian to me.

The trouble occurs when you take the Platonic form of Library as it’d discussed in the Statements, and then give the Statement to “little-l” librarians to pick apart. Because let’s be honest – we don’t work in Library, we work in libraries. Law libraries, academic libraries, corporate libraries, and more may share similar basic values, but our missions and the communities we serve may differ drastically.

A few things that caught my eye from the Statements that I’d be interested in hearing more about:

Under “Preservation of the Library,” and not necessarily in the order they appear,

"Eliminate barriers to cooperation between the Library and any person, institution, or entity within or outside the Library." This is one of those things that’s great for Library, but maybe not for libraries. Libraries that run on cost models, or have user restrictions (as most academic libraries do) will not meet this criteria, but are no less meeting their purpose. Again, for an aspirational document, I think we can all agree this is what library and freedom of information principles would prefer – it just may not be possible in practice, especially when the mission of the Library is not the mission of *my* library.

"Choose wisely what to stop doing." Ay to the men. Note the “wisely” in there.

“Engage in activism on behalf of the Library if its integrity is externally threatened.” All well and good, and we librarians would like to see more of this, certainly. But why the addition of “externally”? Should we not encourage activism in the face of all threats to the Library’s integrity, including those internal to the organization? Many of the threats libraries (actual and physical, as opposed to the Platonic form of Library) face are internal, including foundering administrations, poor assignation of resources, incompetent management and

"Hire the best people and let them do their job; remove staff who cannot or will not." I’m going to both applaud the authors for adding this, and jump up on my imaginary podium for a moment. This has been one of the most difficult and emotionally exhausting duties I’ve taken on as a manager, and I wish more people would step up and shoulder this sort of responsibility. It is a damned shame to see what could be excellent institutions shackled by folks who refuse to meet their job descriptions. No, it is not fun to hand out poor performance evaluations, but as a manager, it is your duty. to fairly and accurately evaluate your staff’s performance. (Please note that I use “staff” here loosely, and include whatever professional librarians you supervise as well as parapros.) I know quite a few library systems that have gotten into the habit of blanketing everyone with “Outstanding,” which is terrible on a number of levels. First, telling your entire staff that they all perform outstanding work should make the truly excellent staff indignant that they are lumped in with whomever works in cubicle 4, who shows up late for work, leaves early, and never meets a deadline. Those outstanding staff will leave, hampering your library’ progress. Secondly, in times of economic crisis, when jobs are eliminated and folks are shifted into other departments, you just foisted off a problem employee onto another manager. Your former staff member may get a rude awakening when accurately reviewed, and your reputation as a manager will suffer. Third, and here I don’t cut much slack - it is your job as a library manager. Please do it, or leave so that someone competent can take your job.

All in all, I appreciate the Darien Statements as an aspirational document and a starting place for discussion. They do reconnect me to that larger sense of what I had hoped to contribute as a librarian – not in the “omg I’m doing something so very important for the world!” sense so much as in the “I work in a profession I am proud to stand on and call my own” sense. I think it’s a good way to think about how our mission, vision, and maybe values *do* differ within the profession, and how different types of libraries and libraries can stand under a single umbrella. This may not be that umbrella, but it’s an interesting place to start.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Statements Provocative and Otherwise: The Taiga 4

My plan was to discuss both the Taiga 4 and Darien statements, and then to offer my own statements on libraries, but that turned into a monster of a post, so I’m breaking it up. Today, my take on Taiga, that harbor of AUL and ADs, the invite-only crowd that purports to decree the future of libraries five years hence, and puts its statements out in, you guessed it (or clicked on it), pdf format. How very futuristic.

The Taiga 4 Provocative Statements are just that. Provocative statements. Note that they didn’t say *what* they were looking to provoke. I mean, hell, Jerry Springer is provocative, but that doesn’t mean I think about it in the shower, or during my workday. A few items:

Item 2: “… collection development as we now know it will cease to exist as selection of patron materials will be entirely patron-initiated.” I find this fascinating, especially fiven that these are ginormous ole ARL folks. Really? You’d entrust building your academic collection to the handful of faculty who are on the ball about it? Funny, at my last university, we gave faculty a pot of money for their departments to deal with faculty requests as separate from the subject liaison collection money. Inevitably, we had to spend their money too, since faculty were too busy doing faculty things to actually request their own materials. What a great way to lead to an imbalanced collection. Not holding my breath.

Item 3, the one where they state that Google will meet all user info needs for students and researchers, has been inexplicably stricken out. So really, the final draft has 9 statements and an “oops.”

Item 5: “…libraries will have given up on the “outreach librarian” model after faculty persistently show no interest in it.” Hm, maybe you’re doin’ it wrong. I know quite a few outreach and liaison librarians who garner high praise from faculty. Then again, a lot of these are at the 1,500 – 15,000 FTE level, which apparently don’t count to Taiga. So much for all those faculty and students excited to learn how to use databases efficiently and improve their research models. Pshah.

Item 6: “…libraries will provide no in-person services.” *sigh* I’ve worked both in Access & Delivery and in Reference and Instruction. I wonder how often these taiga folks actually walk through their libraries instead of heading straight for the admin suite where there is nary a patron to be found. Yes, many services may be supported by technology, but completely unmediated? Doubt it. iPhones aren’t quite that ubiquitous, and they’re assuming no learning curve for any of their patrons. Not everyone shows up fully tech-ready for the post-2.0 world, and 5 years isn’t enough for me to agree this is likely.

Item 10: “…University administrators will see that librarians do not have the skills they need and will hire leaders from other parts of the academy…” Fascinating. No discussion of what those skills are, or how dynamos like Jenica Rogers-Urbanek (new Director of Libraries at SUNY-Potsdam as of July) are up and coming rock stars, or how library deans like Theresa Liedtka at UTC’s Lupton Library scrap for scarce funds and treat both their librarians and the university faculty and student bodies extraordinarily well on a shoestring budget. Again, as non-ARL spots, those directors don’t count. No, we are obviously ill-equipped, what all with the way we as librarians work under budget constraints with not enough staff, keep up with professional development and learning new technologies on our own time, teach, and try to make our libraries more efficient, user-friendly, and prepared for the future. Silly us. We should be doing more hand-wringing, or becoming bureaucrats in other areas of the academy if we want a leadership shot.

There’s nothing in these statements that speaks to the value or value-add of librarianship, not much that’s helpful with regards to the future of the academic library. No collection development, no in-person services, no outreach to faculty and students – which by extension means no instruction, licensing done by campus admin and not librarians, library buildings as giant commons, and no librarians being seen as useful enough to promote to directorships. Well, that's a hell of a way to sell the profession: "FYI: In 5 years, you're useless. Kthxbai!" There’s no mention at all about how we can best serve our users or adapt to changing economic, physical, and staffing landscapes– just that we’re not going to be able to since we’ll have been digested by bureaucracy.

In my estimation, if these “provocative” statements were intended to initiate a meaningful discussion about the future of academic libraries, they have failed miserably. All they’ve done is point out how little these AULs and ADs understand about the day to day workings of the library, how little they care to invest in their own people, and how little they think we shape our future. And what a grim opinion those AULs and ADs have of the professionals they work with - such talentless and skill-deprived folks that they don't see them in leadership positions. That's a damned shame - and damned untrue, from what I've seen of the many talented librarians I know and would be happy to work with and for.

Dear Taiga 4 folks: Your bitter is showing. Better watch that! *wink*

**Coming soon: a response/reflection on the Darien Statements, and then a statement of my own on libraries and librarianship.

Friday, March 06, 2009

A Short Note on Fonts

I know, you're looking for a much more management-oriented post than this one, but you'll have to wait til I get some breathing room. This is a quick note/hint/nudge/whatever to let you know that yes indeedy, font is important.

You hopefully already know that wingdings is not what you use when you send out a cover letter, resume, or other important document. (Unless you use it *really* cleverly, but it's safer not to try.) More librarians should know that while the Comic Sans font is fine when you send out your family holiday newsletter, most professionals consider it inappropriate for resumes, cover letters, reports to directors or other bigwigs, and anything else that is work-related and not intended to be a joke. Really. I cannot count the number of discussions I've had with other librarians who are bemusedly horrified when any document that purports to take itself seriously arrives on their desk in Comic Sans.

I could go into how the textual representation of yourself is sometimes all folks have to go on. On how you should manage your image with every item you send out. But I haven't the energy. It's the Friday at the end of a long week.

Say it with me: Comic Sans is the word-processing equivalent to printing in crayon. You wouldn't send your resume in crayon, would you? (Maybe if you are a children's librarian, to be cute. But aside from that.)

In short, it is comic. No one will take you seriously if you use it in a document being sent to folks you don't personally know *very* well. Seriously, people. Step away from the Comic Sans. Crack would almost be a better habit to have.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

On Priorities: Tipping my Hat to Greg Schwartz & the UV Hiatus

A guy I'm proud to call a friend has made a difficult decision. Greg Schwartz has announced That Uncontrolled Vocabulary will be on indefinite hiatus as he re-prioritizes things in his life to maximize his happiness.

I've had the good fortune to participate in UV as a caller, and a blog post has shown up on the agenda, and it is a wonderful show where enthusiastic and engaged libraryfolk gather late on Wednesday nights (or listen to the cast later), and it's been a raucous good time, and has made me think about some issues from new perspectives, or reminded me of issues coming up that are outside my sphere of expertise in the library world. I will miss the show, but happily have the contact info for many of the participants so I can bug them *grin*

While I'm sad to see the show go (and hope someone has the chutzpah to try to pick it up), I admire Greg greatly for prioritizing life items and ordering them accordingly. Lesser - or perhaps weaker - professionals don't do this, and burn out, become miserable, or miss out on important moments in the lives of their families.

I believe nearly everything in life is a choice. If you dislike your circumstances, it's up to you to change them. If you are unhappy, you bear the onus of creating your happiness. Usually, these aren't simple or easily-made choices - they require sacrificing something we love (or like a whole lot) in order to better appreciate the things we love even more. I tip my hat to Greg for finding ways to better organize his life and priorities so that he is happier and healthier as a person. We should all be so proactive about our mental health and personal responsibilities!

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Partly-Mine Neal-Schuman Book is Out!

Fun news! The book in which my chapter appears is available for order. Teaching Generation M: A Handbook for Librarians and Educators is out from Neal-Schuman. My piece is Chapter 1: "The Haves and the Have-Nots: Class, Race, Gender, Access to Computers and Academic Success." Thank you very much to Theresa Liedtka, Dean of the Library at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and the committee who offered me the days of research leave I needed to write the chapter. This is my very first ISBN (Vibiana Bowman Cvetkovic and Robert Lackie are the editors on the jacket, but I'm claiming the ISBN as mine too *grin*), and I am thrilled!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

More Degrees...

More from me soon (I have a couple of posts percolating but not the time to flesh them out yet). I did want to pop in and announce that I was just offered admission to NCSu's Graduate School in the MS in Technical Communication. In my application, I expressed my interest in specializing in Organizational Information Systems, since that seems most closely related to the actual work I do now that I'm back in Access - communication back and forth through the organization between IT about the catalog, technical services about processing workflows that hit us in Circ, and communicating with staff about not just our own workflows but about technical aspects of other things going on in the library that impact service. I'll be starting the program in Fall 2009 if I accept, which means it'll overlap my MFA by a few months, since I graduate with that in November.

I'm still waiting to hear back from the EdD in Higher Education Administration (also at NCSU) - if I don't get in, I'll default to the MSTC. if I do, well...choices, choices. Care to vote?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

There is No Crying in Librarianship - Or Any Other Career

Today's issue: tears in the workplace. On this, folks either wholeheartedly agree with me, or think I'm an awful ogre. My stance is this: There is no crying in baseball. Or librarianship. Or in any other career you want to be taken seriously at. Don't do it at work. Really.

(Note: I am not talking about the rare bout of tears that occurs when exhaustion overtakes you because you've been dealing with long illness, when you receive news of a death, that sort of thing. We're human. I understand that. What I'm looking to address here is the issue of tears that occur during professional conversations at work that are not related to: your surprise hysterectomy, your cancer diagnosis, your wife leaving you for the mailman that morning, etc.)

It's quite popular to get up in arms over this issue, stating that a "no crying at the workplace" attitude is inhuman, doesn't take into account the fact that people are human beings, and may have issues outside of work affecting them. I've been accused of being heartless for being impatient and unimpressed with tears when discussing disciplinary issues with employees. While some folks are fine with regular bouts of tears, I and a number of other managers are not, and we do have our reasons. While the choice is yours about how much emotion and sensitivity you choose to display in the workplace, it *does* have consequences. To think that it doesn't is naive and downright foolish.

1. Crying is manipulative. It takes attention away from the issue that needs to be addressed and places it directly on the crier as a personal issue, whereas workplace issues are not personal. They are *work*. If crying is a recurring theme every time your manager wants to meet with you, it may be seen as manipulative and an attempt to avoid necessary professional conversations and criticism.

2. If your way of dealing with constructive criticism of your work is to become overtly emotional, how am I supposed to trust you with larger projects, larger risks, and with presenting a public face for whatever organization we're in? What if I need you to make a report that will be unpopular with the full faculty? The director? The public? I can't, and that's the bottom line, so don't expect to get those assignments. They're going to the non-crier.

3. While I am not asking you to be a complete automaton, I *am* asking you to maintain some professional integrity. No, I do not take you seriously if you cry. If that offends you, I'm sorry, but not really. We can speak about this again once the waterworks are turned off and you can hold a conversation without snuffling and snotting all over the place.

4. It's childish. No, really. If your mechanism for coping is to burst into tears, how the hell are you going to be useful to me when I start dealing with downsizing, redistributing workflows, and other transitions in a crappy economy and stressful times? No thanks.

5. I've heard it argued that my attitude about crying in the workplace is a shame, since people should be free to expose exactly how they're feeling. Um, not really. You are free to express your emotions in a professional manner. Occasionally I want to jump up and down on desks and scream and shake wet noodles at recalcitrant staff - but I don't get to do that. Just like you don't get to throw a tantrum and scream and pound on the floor when you're frustrated, you don't get to bawl at work and still be considered a professional. Nope. And it's highly likely that even the folks patting your back are giving the "omgcrazy" look to colleagues over your head.

6. While I am concerned with how you feel - and by "feel," I mean how our conversation will impact your ability to accomplish the work you need to do - I am not concerned with being your bosom buddy. Do criers take into account how the manager "feels" when a perfectly professional discussion spirals down into tears and incoherent mumblings? How about how that manager feels when they know this is your reaction to what *should* be professional discussions? Like it or not, you're cultivating a reputation with your manager. Even if the manager never says a word, if they cringe every time they have to speak to you, knowing they're going to get the waterworks, you're not doing your career any favors.

I understand that some folks are more sensitive than others, and that some people's natural reaction to being frustrated is to tear up. I've had a number of good friends come to me about this. My heartfelt recommendations:

  • Work is not personal. Workplace criticism should be seen as a chance for you to improve your performance, not as a blow to your self-esteem. If it's the same criticism over and over again, now, don't cry over it. Change your danged behavior. Your manager is not "out to get you." Your manager is out to meet the goals and milestones set by administration and their department. Your relationship with your boss is (and should be) based on how you fit into meeting those goals.

  • Your boss is not your friend. Oh, you can be friends on weekends and at night, you can pal around and do barbecues with the family and all that. But at work, be very clear: you are there to work, and the relationship is different, however subtly. You need to be aware of this, or it's going to come as a shock when your "pal" does your performance appraisal and it's not all rainbows and pillowfarts just because you have a few beers together on Friday nights.

  • Make a list. If you know you get flustered or frustrated easily, and it leads to tears and/or emotional outbursts, be sure to make lists of items to bring up in meetings. This is useful for a number of reasons. You can take notes and concentrate on the substance of the words instead of getting overly upset. If you are in the meeting to discuss your concerns, the list will make sure you address everything you wanted to - it is easy to leave out important items when you get flustered. Keeping a list and notes might also tend to pull you back into a more professional demeanor, since it keeps your hands busy and is a good way to keep yourself on-task.

  • Hold it in. No, really. Wait until you get to the restroom, outside the building, your car, home, the shooting range, the gym, whatever. unless you've got a damned good reason that you can coherently explain, do *not* cry in your manager's office, or at work in general. Really. Does that sound inhuman? Maybe. But how much do you want to be taken seriously? Think about it. If your reaction to interactions at work is to cry, you're either in a very unhealthy workplace, or you've got to learn to deal with things in other ways if you're going to be taken seriously.

You get no kudos from me for knowing yourself so deeply, for being proud of your oversensitive nature and parading it around as a badge of honor that . There are other personal things you don't get to display at work - your fetishes, your bare feet, your skill with flambe - why would you think that emotional displays are any different?

Yes, I realize I'm making judgments here. A library pal of mine whose work I admire would say I'm trying to judge when it is and isn't okay for people to be emotional. And I will nod and say "That's exactly what I'm doing." I'm okay with that, because I firmly and sincerely believe that it is *not okay* to pull that shite at work, and I don't mind saying it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

25 Things You Never Cared to Know About Warmaiden (aka The Guardienne)

There's been a random meme going around called "25 Things," where folks list 25 random things about themselves. I first saw it on notes in Facebook, lately it's hit Friendfeed. I figure I'll just post mine here and then from now on I can just link to it in other venues. I'm a cheater like that *grin*

1. Someone else has the domains and, and I was the Guardienne long before I became Warmaiden. We'll just have to deal with that. Occasionally, I also go by the name Colleen. It confuses my online peeps. But today I go by Warmaiden almost exclusively online, unless someone has already sniped my name. Grr.

2. My dream job isn't to be a librarian. It's not even to be a poet, which some of you know I do in my free time. Nope. It's to be an NFL head coach. Of the Oakland Raiders, so I can restore them to their glory days of battle, when they led the league in penalty yardage, but won anyway.Because they were that good, that mean, and that feared. Nowadays they're just a bunch of guys who may as well be wearing tutus and drinking Heineken, for goodness sake. Pitiful.

3. I was born and raised on Long Island. I left as soon as I had my high school diploma and have lived below the Mason-Dixon ever since, except for a brief nightmarish period from January through July of 2007, when I moved back to check out NY. It was awful. Hurtling to work at 85 mph on the LIE was a sure way to guarantee a bad morning every morning. being from new York does come in handy, since the accent comes back when I get angry, and makes me sound tough.

4. Most of the men I love are nerdly, and I would not trust them to have my back in a barfight. Or to protect me from a college brawl in the library bookstacks. But when my level 40 warrior chick needs new gear, they're totally there to do a run-through for me.

5. Most of the librarians I know and consider my colleagues are invisible internet people I've never met, and they've been an invaluable resource for me. My current bosslady I first met on Twitter, and had no idea who she was when she greeted me with a hug at ALA Annual 2008. Gotta love the internet.

6. I really despise those peanut butter candy things that Brach's puts out around Halloween. Gross. Cavity-ninja fare.

7. I have a slight obsession with moose. I've never seen one in person, but I collect moose figurines, posters, magnets, you name it.

8. I have a similar obsession with cows, but living in Kentucky for nearly 10 years has taken some of the edge off of that one.

9. The only stitches I've ever required were due to slicing a fingertip off on a can of Chunky Soup, and due to my sister smacking me upside the chin with the metal bar of a seesaw.

10. Very few things in the world make me cry. Remembering my mother sitting beside my hospital bed and holding my hand after my tonsillectomy ruptured is one of those things. The rest I try very hard not to talk about.

11. I have no idea how noun cases work and cannot decline nouns to save my life. This is why I specialized in romance languages and was awful at German and ancient Greek. Thanks, NY public school system ;)

12. I was raised as a Catholic. Which pretty much means that I learned to be suspicious of rules created by councils and to break rules early and be okay with that. Bucking library administration and various other authority figures pales in comparison to being damned, right? *grin*

13. I'm pretty sure there's a God, but don't think he gives a damn what denomination we choose. I'm also pretty sure he doesn't listen much to any of us, except for my mom. pretty sure she's got the Batphone to the Deity - all her prayers for her kids come true.

14. My mom taught me what unconditional love looks and feels like. I'm not saying I can do it, but I'm still in awe of her practice of it.

15. I was raised in the general philosophy that all you need to succeed are Carhartts to keep you warm and a great big glass of suck-it-up-atine, since the world owes you - and will likely give you - nothing. This has served me very, very well in life, and I try to share it with others. Who are generally not receptive.

16. I don't do drugs, and am seriously unamused and unimpressed by those who do. I don't mean to judge, but...judge.

17. I am a homebody and much prefer staying in with a book or my crochet - or spending time with a small handful of select close friends - to just about anything. In this case, it's really not you, it's me ;)

18. I tend to pick up the accents of those around me. No, I am not making fun of you. Ask Allison, who heard my accent change from hard Long Island to mild Kentucky over the course of our college years. Ask Allison, who had to haul me out of a Kentucky bar filled with Irishmen when my brogue got to be a bit much. Ask Allison again, who had to deal with me on a weeklong trip to Jamaica :)

19. I'm terrible at MMORPGs because I don't have the dedication or stamina to play for hours on end. But I have a level 40 warrior chick, and getting there in Warcraft helped me understand my gamerboypeeps *so much*. It also helps me connect with other gamers I have in classes. I highly recommend it, if only so you can therapeutically kill monsters for their sparkly, shiny loot and know what someone's talking about when they bring up DKP jokes. Or Leeroy Jenkins. or if they refer to your wife as a pet with Nag Plus One Thousand.

20. I shop victoriously on eBay. Like, 300 victoriously. (Well, they lost, I guess, but they certainly lost victoriously.) I will snipe your ass and never feel an ounce of shame.

21. I used to prefer white wine, now I prefer red. I no longer enjoy beer or liquor, which shames me before all of my college pals, but greatly reduces my incidence of hangover.

22. I cannot stand the Brontes or Charles Dickens, but I could live on Tom Clancy and Stephen King. I feel like I should be ashamed of this. But I'm not. Also, two of my favorite poets are Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky - not exactly Nobel winners, but good clean fun.

23. I can't stand the smell of lavender, and I don't care how many therapeutic properties it supposedly has. Peppermint and spearmint are my preferreds.

24. I love to cook, but only when there's someone there to enjoy the meal with me.

25. I would not take back a single drop of love I've expended during my lifetime. As I age, though, I can better see the psychic consequences of love poorly applied, so I try to be less damaging and more gentle while wielding it.