Over the past several months I have been reading two librarian blogs: Librarian in Black by Sarah Houghton and Agnostic, Maybe by Andy Woodworth. I chose these two blogs for very similar reasons. The first was that both contained a large amount of tech-related information. As I am sure you are sick of hearing at this point, this is what I see myself focusing on throughout my career. I could relate to and appreciate the information and insights provided by both Houghton and Woodworth as we come from similar mindsets. Second, I found these two bloggers appealing because of their irreverent and sometimes outrageous opinions and senses of humor. Houghton and Woodworth do not ever hesitate to speak their minds. In delving into their archives I found particularly outspoken pieces on subjects such as Overdrive and HarperCollins (The Publisher of Tolkien Has Taken a Business Lesson from Sauron) and Freegal (Just Say No to Freegal) that made me realize how passionate these two authors are about the work they do. Third, neither Woodworth nor Houghton is afraid to bring their personal lives into their blogs. Many posts contained updates on their lives (Honeymoon, Cancer: I Will Kill It Dead) that allow the reader to get to know them on a personal level. By opening up about their lives, a barrier is removed between the author and reader, allowing for a greater trust in the judgments and pronouncements of the author. Lastly, and most importantly, both of these bloggers are truly passionate about the work they do, and their writing shows it. From the way they fervently work to share the insights they have gained with the greater LIS community, to the large number of swear words they use to get their point across, their passion cannot be denied. Reading their blogs was not just an assignment, but an engaging and cathartic experience. The following are some of the highlights from the last several months:
20/20 on Libraries in 2020 by Andy Woodworth
“Where do you see libraries in 2020?” This was the question asked of Andy during a job interview he recently attended. In his post, he goes on to explain that he answered the question (and did a “damn good” job doing so) but that the answer to the question was really not the point (Woodworth, 2013, para 1). In reliving the question over and over in his mind, he realized just how ridiculous it is to try and predict where technology will be in 2020. He points out that 7 years ago, we had no “Tumbr, Google Street View, Instagram, Dropbox, iPhones, or Kindles” and that it would be presumptuous of anyone, even those people in the tech field, to make predictions as to what sort of advancements we can expect in 2020 (Woodworth, 2013, para. 4).
For a blogger who is (arguably) at the forefront of tech advancements in the LIS field to admit this was an eye-opener for me. (Not that I was ever foolish enough to think that I knew what the next big thing in tech was going to be!) When I think about the advancements in technology that libraries are making now, and how much more quickly they are coming into being than in the past, it kind of boggles my mind. It seems like only a few months ago that 3D printers were first making the news, and now my library system is looking into purchasing one. This is quite the turnaround in comparison to most other tech advancements that have occurred in my 10 years of library work. His point also rings true on a larger level as well. Looking past just tech advancements, how do any of us know where libraries in general will be in 2020? It’s a crazy thing to think about, but the world we live in is far more fast-paced than that of even 20 years ago.
So You Want to be a Director by Sarah Houghton
Houghton does an amazing thing in this post. She lays bare her own faults as a means to help others better themselves. By examining her first year and a half as director of the San Rafael Public Library, Sarah presents her readers with a list of facts about being a director that many others could potentially face. Some of my favorites include:
1. Fear is Normal
I was terrified as an Acting Director… But I tried it anyway. I reached out to a small network of library administrators whose opinions I trusted, seeking advice as a newbie and help with specific issues when necessary. Everyone was super helpful, especially in letting me know that each of them had gone through a period of fear as well. Being new at something is usually scary, especially when you have naysayers attacking you from all sides before you’ve even begun the job. The trick, as with any fear, is to acknowledge the feeling, make a plan to move forward, and act on it. Everything else takes care of itself. (Houghton, 2013, para. 6)
THANK GOD. When I started my first management position in a library I had a serious case of Impostor Syndrome rattling around my brain. I second guessed every decision that I made and felt constantly on the verge of being found out. Surely, any moment someone would realize what a crazy mistake they made in appointing me manager! Houghton speaks to these feelings as not only being normal, but the very thing that drove her to do a good job. To read that such a successful and respected member of the LIS community felt the same way I did/do forced me to realize that fear is normal, expected, and when wielded properly, a great tool to get great work done.
3. There is No Magic Pill
“I had hoped that I would find one magical thing I could do for the public to make them happy. Likewise, I wanted that one magical thing to win all the staff over. There is no magic pill. A thousand things have to be done to appeal to the thousand different priorities and interests of our diverse populations, including staff.” (Houghton, 2013, para. 8)
In other words, nothing magically gets better on its own. Everyone will not magically like you all the time. Change comes with hard work and trust comes with time. Priorities are always going to be diverse and multilayered. Learn to roll with it.
10. Do It Your Way
Something I was massively worried about when becoming a Director was having to conform… I made a conscious decision not to do so from the get-go and in my final interview with our City Manager told her point blank that I would continue being me and doing things my way, and that my “being me” would probably get me into trouble at some point in the future, but that I couldn’t pretend for 10 hours a day to be someone else. She still hired me…So I do my thing the way I do it … Because when I’m talking about why libraries matter, I automatically smile. I love libraries and it shows. I dress the way I dress, listen to electronica full blast at my desk, dole out espresso shots to tired employees, and send out irreverent and sometimes funny items in our missives to City Council and our Board of Trustees. Basically, I’m just me. I don’t have to put on a mask. I can be me and still do this job well. And so can you. (Houghton, 2013, para. 15)
Just because you take on a management position doesn’t mean that you have to magically transform yourself into the epitome of conformity. You were hired to this job because of who you are. If they had wanted a conformist, they would have hired one. You were hired because of what you presented yourself to be. Your uniqueness is just as important to the job you do as your past work experience.
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants by Andy Woodworth
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants examines an article from Tech Crunch in which the downfall of libraries is predicted. Again. This post was amazing for many reasons. The first of which is that Woodworth points out that the tired the-library-is-doomed-and-will-never-survive rhetoric that seems to never abate has been around for far longer than most of us realize, and somehow, we all still manage to exist. He specifically points to an article from 1983 in the journal The Electronic Library that spoke of the extinction of libraries, as well as one from the New York Times in 2002 that talked about the internet as our downfall (Woodworth 2013, para. 2-3). The lesson in this is pretty simple, while the “death of libraries” has been predicted for quite some time; there is no evidence to support the hypothesis.
Second, Andy correctly states that libraries and librarians are made of “tougher stuff” and as a profession we would be foolish to fall for this nonsense (Woodworth, 2013, para. 4). His show of faith in the work that he does, his colleagues, and the library institution as a whole is important because he is a prominent voice in the library world, and sometimes it’s good to hear such enthusiasm and faith coming from someone in the public eye. As librarians, we all know that we will fight to maintain our importance and relevance and because of that, our downfall is far from imminent. Andy is simply reminding us to keep up the good fight and not be discouraged by some talking head with a deadline to make.
Third, Andy uses his point to then bring awareness to the real battles that libraries are currently facing; copyright, net neutrality, and intellectual property (Woodworth, 2013, para. 5). He takes a tired subject that does little other than bring the reader down, and refocuses attention back to where it should be. This, in short, is what a library blog should be: focused, fact-based, researched, and an exhilarating read.
Houghton, S. (2013, June 12). So You Want to be a Director. Librarian in Black Blog Sarah Houghton RSS. Retrieved December 1, 2013, from http://librarianinblack.net/librarianinblack/2013/07/so-you-want-to-be-a-director.html
Woodworth, A. (2013, October 18). Standing on the Shoulders of Giants. Agnostic Maybe. Retrieved December 1, 2013, from http://agnosticmaybe.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/standing-on-the-shoulders-of-giants/
Woodworth, A. (2013, October 7). 20/20 on Libraries in 2020. Agnostic Maybe. Retrieved December 1, 2013, from http://agnosticmaybe.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/2020-on-libraries-in-2020/