Posts Tagged ‘librarianship’
These few additional thoughts on being a reader were prompted by a blog post at Booking Through Thursday on the topic of “Being a reader.” I have to say that I cannot imagine not being a reader. Since the days when my mother placed my first books in my hands, I’ve been reading. I cannot imagine any life without reading, nor can I imagine a house without books (even if they can be a pain to move).
The curious thing, if you can call it that, is that not many people in my life read, and that does include librarians in and out of my workplace. Contrary to popular belief, not all librarians read, or, I should say, they do not read more than the absolute minimum required by their jobs–memos, an article now and then, a paper on occasion. I’ve written on that before, as I think it diminishes our profession when librarians admit, some with pride, that they do not read. But that’s them. I read because I enjoy it. I read because I am curious, inquisitive, and I enjoy learning. I often get many solutions to problems from reading books. In addition, I get pleasure and entertainment from reading. So I make it a point to always have a book or two nearby.
As for my relationship with others, it depends on who it is. For the most part, my family, with one or two exceptions, are not readers. They know that I read a lot, and some may acknowledge I am a bit more knowledgeable about a few things because of my reading, but we really don’t talk about my reading or about books. I can talk books with a friend or two and with a librarian or two now and then. However, I will admit that most of my book talking and discussion happens online via my blogs or my social sites online. There are a lot of people online who read books and enjoy sharing their reading experiences. I enjoy meeting them, even if many have different reading tastes than me. It’s interesting to me learning what others like to read. Granted, sometimes I do wonder about some reading choices people make, but as a librarian, I try to abide by the old laws of every book its reader and every reader its book. Besides, who knows what they think about some of the things I read.
This post by Wayne Bivens-Tatum on “Why I Ignore Gurus, Sherpas, Ninjas, Mavens, and Other Sages” did resonate with me. I also tend to ignore those types, or when I listen to them, I simply adapt what I need from them and toss out the rest. This is quote from the piece that really stuck with me this time:
“Based on my experience, I know the gurus’ giving advice about things I must learn is wrong. I can learn those things, and I might even benefit from that learning, but I don’t have to and will probably do just fine without learning them. I don’t follow sherpas and gurus because I prefer to go my own way. Leaders need followers, but I’m not much of either. I’ve found that it’s much easier to develop skills as I need them than to be told that some skill will benefit me because the teller has the skill and reaps benefits.”
As I wrote when I shared the link on Facebook, this is a lot of what I believe. Sure, I can lead when need be. Just because I do not have much use for a lot of leadership it does not mean I do not know how to lead. I may have mentioned elsewhere that I am a bit more a member of the Patton School of Leadership (Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way). A big reason I do ignore a lot of the library gurus and big shots is this: often the advice they give is because whatever they are peddling (coding and learning HTML back in the day, and yes, back in library school, learning HTML was a big deal; or social media now) benefited them. They get benefits from peddling it (speaking engagements, book deals, fame, higher blog views and counts, followers on social media, etc.) regardless of whether what they peddle or not is good advice for you or not.
I have learned to do what works for me. As an information literacy librarian, I have learned to use the skills I teach my students of always questioning and evaluating the sources of information. Plus, I have also learned the following: You (often) improvise. You adapt. You overcome.
By the way, go read the whole piece. It is well worth it.
I initially just jotted down in my personal journal some ideas prompted by Jenica Rogers’s post with “Questions About Library Leadership.” However, maybe because I don’t know better, I am blogging them now even if it is on the “not quite ready for primetime” blog. At the end of the day, I am just clearing my thoughts a bit. So, with some minor modifications from what I wrote in my personal journal, here goes.
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Once again reading through my library feeds, and I come across another post on library leadership. This time is Jenica Rogers, library director at SUNY-Potsdam, reflecting on her blog. By now, this is the kind of topic I just read, nod in agreement, and move on. I learned a while back that in librarianship some topics come and go, almost like the seasons. So I just do the best I can with what I have. It’s not that I don’t care. I just prefer not to be too public about it. In addition, I happen to be one of those librarians who have been told they have a bad attitude because they have no interest in management. I have made notes on the topic here or there, and I did note Ms. Rogers is one of those who brings up “bad attitudes” in the profession if we hold no interest in management. Actually, I don’t feel a need to “get over it .” I have high expectations of my managers, and I expect them to be accountable. If they suck, they should be called out and fired if need be. To use the term as Bob Sutton uses it, asshole managers should not be tolerated no matter how talented they are. Period. All they do is bring down their organizations, not to mention turn off any people with potential who see that and say, “there is no way I want to be like him.” If they are good, they should be praised because here is something else I believe: not everyone has the same gifts.
“My, gift, was to be able to persuade people, to give, to the Holy Church.” -Archbishop Gilday, in the film The Godfather, Part III.
Some people have the talent to be managers, handle the bills, the big decisions that keep the lights on, etc. Some of us have talents better suited for the front lines. When a manager is good at what they do, it is certainly appreciated. I happen to have a healthy respect for those with the gift to keep the building running. I personally have no interest in that, and it should not earn me a label of having a bad attitude for saying it.
I probably should qualify that it’s not that I have no interest in management. I am able to reflect and read on the topic (feel free to click on the “leadership and management” tag on the right side column here, or on the “librarianship” tag over at my main blog, The Gypsy Librarian. I’ve had a small thought or two on the topic. As someone who gets managed by others, I do have an interest in management, and to a small extent, I have an interest in what makes managers tick. I’ve been fortunate that some of my managers in previous jobs, even when we had our professional differences, were willing to let me ask questions now and then for me to learn more. In some cases, I’ve learned things not to do from managers who were less than ideal as well.
“If I may be so bold, it was a mistake for you to accept promotion. Commanding a starship is your first, best destiny; anything else is a waste of material.” -Captain Spock to Admiral Kirk, from the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
What I don’t have an interest in becoming is a manager, or to be exact, a library director. As I’ve said before, mostly as a joke, no one in their right mind would put me in charge of a library. On a serious note, I don’t aspire to a high level management position because that would take me away from what I love and do best. I am an instruction librarian, pure and simple. It is my best destiny.
At any rate, the questions Ms. Rogers raises on in her latest post are interesting and ones that should be discussed. I will say that in regards to the desire for external hires that I have often seen a reverse: an institution that already has an internal candidate in mind, but they have to go through the rigamarole of some bureaucracy and bring in a few token candidates to cover their posteriors. I know: I’ve been one of those tokens. If you are observant during an interview, and you ask a well-placed question now and then (yes, you should be asking questions of your interviewers just as they ask you questions), you can tell when a search committee is just going through the motions. Some committees can hide it better than others, but again, if you are attentive, you see enough to know.
But I have seen some of the other issues. For example, the desire to bring top talent but not being able (or willing) to pay for it; the location issue (which, personally, is not one that has bothered me much when I have been on the market. I’ve been more than willing to go to places most people probably would consider beneath them. In my case, if a job is good, I can make the place work. Paradise, on the other hand, can be shit if the job is bad); and search committees looking for pegacorns. No, not just unicorns, but full blown winged unicorns. Some of the job ads I’ve seen in the days when I was in the market…goodness gracious. Some institutions clearly have no shame.
I will note that I do fall in that “ripe for top management” positions demographic. Heck, to some people, I may be a bit “too ripe.” I’ve gotten questions once or twice such as “are you sure you want to work here?” or a variant when I have applied to other front line positions. My answer is as before: this is what I am passionate about, what I do best, so why take some higher steps up the ladder that would take me away from that?
“A man’s GOT to know his limitations.” — Inspector Harry Callahan, from the film Magnum Force.
It’s not that I am not qualified or capable. It’s that I don’t want to, and if some see it as bad attitude, well, that is their problem.
Now my four readers might point out that I am a Coordinator now, which does involve some management. To that I will say it does, but it is more a leadership position. In very simple terms, I don’t just manage people. I lead a team, and I do so by example and being in the front line with my team members. And what little I know and have learned along my journey that can be offered I share as generously as I can. Because I also believe that one has to pay forward. I’ve had leaders who have inspired me, who have given me wisdom, advice, an example, help, so on. I would not be here without them. So, now I have the chance to do some of the same. That’s my nutshell definition of leadership, for what it may be worth to folks out there. All that and the responsibility to keep on learning.
So here are the musings of a librarian who has been around a couple of places and seen a thing or two. Take it for what it may be worth. Now, what I learn in this new role could be a topic or two in future posts. We shall see.
En la lucha. . . .
I originally wrote this out in my personal journal a couple of weeks ago. It was inspired by Amanda Nelson’s blog post over at Book Riot on the topic of “What Does it Mean to be Well Read.” As a reader, I usually don’t give a hoot about this kind of discussion, which I think often becomes a snob exercise for some readers to feel superior to others. But the post did make me think a bit and reflect on how I view reading. So, as I reflected, I did a little writing, and this is what I wrote. To go along with this, I will suggest to my four readers that they may want to read my other recent post on “There is a Big Reason Why I Read.” It goes a bit more on why I read, especially as a librarian.
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I’ve always considered myself relatively well-read given I strive to read a balance of fiction and nonfiction. And while I stick mostly to some genres, I will venture outside those once in a while. I’ve read a good number of U.S. and international classics. Plus, I can certainly talk intelligently about what I’ve read. So, by some definitions, I am well-read. I don’t brag about it (the most showing off I might do about what I read are my annual compilations of what I’ve read in a year, and I do that mostly for fun and to look back on a previous year). I sure as hell am not a snob about it. As I’ve stated before in other places, including this blog, I read what I want when I want. If it happens to be diverse, then that is a happy side effect.
I will disagree with some that you have to read classics and literary fiction to be well-read. If the definition of “well-read” includes being able to speak intelligently about classics and literary fiction, then there are ways to get around that. I am not saying you can completely skip the classics and literary fiction. I think some exposure to them is healthy. However, given the various available shortcuts, you can easily bluff your way in this regard. In other words, read some classics and literary fiction for a balanced education. Read more of them if you like them, but you should not feel obligated. There are plenty of genre fiction and nonfiction books that are as good, as challenging, etc., in some cases superior to any “classic” or “literary fiction” work. The snobs often hate to admit that, but as both a reader and a librarian I can tell you that is a solid truth.
In the end, don’t be a snob. Read what moves you. Read what you like. Sure, explore here and there, but don’t do it because “it’s good for you” or some snob tells you to “take your medicine.” Reading should not be an experience akin to swallowing castor oil. Let the snobs do that if they like it so much.
I guess in the end I am saying to find your reading bliss. Take a risk now and then, but do so because you want to, because you are curious, because you’d like to experience something new. Don’t do it because some guru or pundit makes you feel guilty. Who knows? Maybe in the end the concept itself of being “well-read” is overrated, especially when it is used to beat others over the head like it’s a club. There are other ways to encourage readers to diversify their reading diet past their quota of 200 paranormal romances (I pulled that example from Ms. Nelson’s post, but I could have instead brought up some of the dystopian military scifi stuff I read now and then, which to me, does not seem terribly dystopian. Then again, I do like my dark in my science fiction). Beating people over the head with the nagging of “you need to be more well-read” is not the way to do it. Offer samples, bits and pieces here and there, and see what happens.
This may be where a good librarian trained in Reader’s Advisory can help. One tool at our disposal is the read-a-like list. So, you like paranormal romances? Find “classics” with similar appeal factors to offer the reader. That probably goes further than just telling someone to read other things so they can be “well-read.”
The bottom line for me is I personally worry little about the label. I don’t think someone is less of a reader if they are not “well-read.” At any rate, anyone out there need a little help in building their “well-read” cred (I am trademarking that phrase, by the way, haha!), feel free to ask your local, friendly librarian.
And keep on reading.
P.S. Anyone really wants to know what I read? The link to my GoodReads profile is on the right column of this blog. Hop on over and look over my shelves. I think I can back up what I preach, though there are always more books to discover. Then again, that discovery is part of the fun, would you folks not agree?
This is basically a link dump post of items that I have found contain useful information related to work, career, and professional development. In essence, these are links to things I want to remember for future reference.
- This was written mostly for PhD students, but I think it is applicable for anyone who may have been in academia for a long time and now needs (or desires) to find a job outside of academia. It is a given you may have to reinvent yourself in such a situation. So, via Escape the Ivory Tower, remember that “they don’t know how awesome you are.”
- Barbara Pachter provides some pointers on how to stay in touch with former bosses or other professional colleagues. Networking is always important for your career growth, but you also need good manners.
- Via The Bamboo Project, here are “Six Positive Professional Development Strategies for the Toxic Workplace.” In my line of work, contrary to what a lot of celebrity blogging librarians would have you believe (at least non-pseudonymous ones), libraries are not little slices of heaven on Earth. Some are nice, and others not so much. If you happen to be stuck in one of the toxic ones, you need to take care of yourself. You still need to continue your professional development regardless of whether you choose to stand and flight or send out your resume to get out of town. This article offers some small places to start a more positive process for your professional development.
- Also via The Bamboo Project, “Tough Questions for Your Professional Development.” These can serve as a good reflective exercise.
- On a related theme, via Dumb Little Man, here is some stuff on “How to Deal With a Job You Hate.” Again, not everything is Eden on Earth. When it is not, you need to find constructive ways to deal with things and still keep on growing.
- And to pick something in librarianship, here is In the Library With a Lead Pipe. They have an article offering a Q&A on Professional Development. This is mostly geared to library school students, but there are still some useful things for those of us already fortunate enough to be out in the field.
- Via Hack Library School, a post on “The Skills You Don’t Learn in School.” That refers to library school. This is a topic a colleague and I often talk about, and I suppose it could be a topic for a longer post over at the professional blog. But for one, I don’t really feel the inclination nor the time to write that longer post up. But the post on skills does offer some food for thought.
- Idea Sandbox offers a nice diagram on the “Magic of Thinking Big.”