Librarian Rave Mix

Musical libretto with color overlay

Librarians: You know how it goes.

You are out partying with your librarian friends. Suddenly you realize that your gathering requires a suitable soundtrack. A library-themed soundtrack. Indeed, without the proper music, the event will be a disaster!

It could happen. The worst case scenario is sobering: everyone ends up hopping around to the They Might be Giants’ album “Flood” until the police show up and ticket you with a noise violation.*

Using a combination of technology and powerful query-typing skills, I have SOLVED THIS PROBLEM. Introducing Dancing on the Reference Desk, a free playlist dedicated to libraries, librarians, and their interests.

Including such timeless classics as Ch-Check it Out by the Beastie Boys, and Lady Writer by Dire Straits make sure your next librarian rave is a success with this excellent compilation.

Note: I’m not associated with Spotify, but I do think they are pretty awesome. If you end up using this soundtrack let me know. I would love to attend some rocking librarian parties vicariously.
Credits: I dictated this entire blog post to my iPhone via Dragon Dictate while spooning nutrient-rich goop into the baby’s mouth. Special thanks to Jenny Klumpp who provided numerous excellent suggestions.
* This actually happened. I was in grad school hopping around with my fellow nerds, watching the Muppet Show and listening to TMBG. We chipped in to pay the ticket. This was in my experience hands-down the Dorkiest. Police Intervention. Ever.

Ethnically Librarian

I am a librarian. I am not a librarian.

I have an information science degree. I’ve been working for fourteen years, my entire adult life. Most of my jobs have been in libraries.

I am a librarian. I am not a librarian.

emdot
photo by emdot

As a student at Michigan State University, I learned Library of Congress serials cataloging.

I walked through secluded aisles surrounded by rare books, incunabulum, alternative newspapers, and gay pornography.
I cataloged comic books in the world’s largest archive of comic art, radicalism, and popular culture.

In the course of my work, I learned that Spiderman serials change their volume as often as many Spiderman readers change their underwear. By graduation, I could walk into any comic shop in the country and pick a fight about whether X-Men film adaptations should be considered canon.

When I went to graduate school (Michigan ’03), my program had recently transitioned from “Library Science” to “Information Science.” In the process, they picked up a bunch of renegade computer science professors and expanded to include information architecture, information economics, archival theory, and a bunch of crazyass dot com bubble refugees like myself.

sh0dan
photo by sh0dan

We discovered that the term Digital Library can be used to describe an entire array of cool shit, including the Internet itself.

One of my professors, Sue Davidson, tells the story of how Yahoo cofounder Jerry Yang called to ask about the subject guide to the web she had created for the Michigan Electronic Library. Sue answered: “that’s what librarians do, we organize information.”

Librarianship, defined as the act of organizing information, is a broad and inclusive field. Librarianship as a profession, is not. There are strict professional guidelines determining who is and is not technically a “Librarian,” but there is also a strong case to be made for the authenticity of self-identification.

There are librarians who work in libraries, and there are librarians who just Are.

It’s the difference between being a Jew by Religion, and being a Jew by Ethnicity. Both groups contribute to the cultural whole.

While a Librarian by Profession is inherently a Librarian by Ethnicity, the opposite may not be true. A trained librarian can sport a different job title, but her clarity and understanding will still contribute to her work.

by Syntopia
photo by Syntopia

I’m a librarian by ethnicity.

Right now, I work as a user experience designer on a software team. I wrestle with ship dates, dependencies, conflicting user requirements, and engineering constraints. I design interfaces and help identify how the software should behave.

But somewhere, deep in my soul, I am doing the work of the Library.

I’m a librarian by ethnicity, regardless of the job I take. I don’t make my living as an ALA going, patron-helping organizer of resources, but I’ll be damned if I don’t use Librarian skills to battle confusing groupings of information.

Librarians bring order to chaos, and so, with a little luck, do I.

On Graduating from School and Getting a Job

I was crawling through my archives this morning and came across this little rant that I wrote years ago, during my first, horrible, post-grad school job at the Cornell University Library. I know several of you Gentle Readers are in school right now, and I thought you might enjoy the sentiment:

First of all, and lets just get this out of the way: a full-time job is actually a pretty shoddy reward for 2.5 years of graduate school stress.

Yes, I’m grateful and all, glad to be here, nice to meet ya, etc. but frankly, I think I was looking for something along the lines of “congratulations on your degree, here’s your houseboat, now get out of here you scamp.”

I suppose having a stable schedule and slightly-more-realistic paychecks is reward enough, but lately I’ve had to face what seems to happen any time you put enormous effort into something. Which is, a rather slow transition into something different that requires enormous effort.

Like learning not to scream when someone suggests you attend the Metadata Working Group Meeting.

Michigan Alumni Nostalgia

I’m alone in the University of Michigan Science Library, enjoying free wireless (thanks to my alumni account) and a wealth of power outlets. I’m sitting in a window-alcove that overlooks campus, level with the green copper towers of West Hall.

During school, I came here to watch the University’s resident Peregrine Falcon as he perched on the tile roof and disemboweled pigeons.

It’s snowing in Ann Arbor, and I’ve got a big cup of mint tea. Below, a stream of overdressed undergraduates walks to class, wearing Uggs and fashionable backpacks. westhallsnow.jpg
photo credit: kwei

There are things I want to accomplish, but the luxury of a full day stretches ahead. Snow drops past the windows that surround my table. My favorite professor has her office hours this afternoon. I’d like to tell her that her two geeky research assistants are getting married.

I enjoy Ithaca, but it’s good to be in a place that feels more like home, if only because of the frequent sleepless nights I spent here churning out papers and code. I might run errands today and call old friends. I might just put my head down and sleep on this table.

I wish you all a peaceful snowy morning, full of potential.


ps. SI alums: The door scanner on the DIAD is still pissing people off after all these years. Good to know some things don’t change.

Food poisoning (Part Two)

One of the things I managed to learn in Librarian School is that you can (and probably should) research everything. So about an hour into The Food Poisoning, I got online and found a bunch of handy tips, which included such things as “drink tons of water” (no matter what happens to it afterward).  The handy tips seem to have helped, and I’ve now worked my way up to drinking ginger tea WITH HONEY. The best part is I can rest assured that I’m vomiting in a reasonable and well-researched way.

Quiz

I did a talk at a convention in Detroit a few weeks ago in which I encouraged people to become librarians. I started out with this quiz. Now it’s your turn.

Am I Geeky enough to be a Librarian?

Yes No
1. I enjoy acronyms.
2. I own a cat.
3. When confronted with a pile of books I think “Hmm…first I would sort by author, then by title?
4. I am obsessive enough to appreciate the difference between 345.065 and 345.605.
5. I possess a useless undergraduate degree.
6. Being surrounded by books makes me lather with delight.
7. The idea of someone preventing me from reading Orwell because they don’t like it strikes me as Orwellian.
8. I am comfortable with the Internets.
9. If my house caught on fire, one of the things I would grab is my favorite book.
10. I possess a useless graduate degree.
11. I can daisy-chain a herd of Ubuntu boxes faster than you can say FreeBSD.
12. These kids today. I swear. If they would just read a damn book once in awhile, they wouldn’t be blowing each other up so much.
13. I could find out the middle name of your high school boyfriend with just ten minutes on the Internet.
14. I could find out the first line of A Tale of Two Cities with just ten seconds on the Internet.
15. I know the first line of A Tale of Two Cities.
16. I am a disenfranchised intellectual.
17. The idea of arming the public with knowledge appeals to me more than, say, arming them with pitchforks and torches.
18. I would rather do something cool than get rich.
19. I possess a useless doctoral degree.
20. I can say “Colon classification” without laughing.
Scoring
Under 5 = I think the “We hate libraries” meeting is down the hall.5-10 = You are geeky, but can you HANDLE the acronyms?10-15 = I’ve got some library school applications under my desk you big dork

15-20 = Quit your job immediately! Grab the nearest child and teach him to read! Oh, and start stocking up on acid-free paper.

Update

“That’s the duty of the old,” said the Librarian, “to be anxious on behalf of the young. And the duty of the young is to scorn the anxiety of the old.” -Phillip Pullman, The Golden Compass

Sorry about my lack of posts this week. Work just decided to grow teeth and latch onto my leg like a rutting badger. I’ve been enjoying your comments about library school. I think in lieu of a decent series of posts, I’m going to dig out my old library school blog and put it up for your amusement.

Of course, we called it Information School back then.

70’s Librarians Know How To Party

I grabbed this photo from my Information School’s 75th anniversary website. Which I designed. A long time ago. Before I discovered that flexible CSS-layouts make everyone’s lives better.

Anyway, I love these librarians. The photo was from the “campus life” section, and I’ve just got to say: If you are in this photo or know someone who is, please let me buy you a Schlitz. Because that’s what they’re drinking. I know this through the magic of Photoshop.

So is it just me or was library school more fun back then? My classmates drank, don’t get me wrong, but we did it in a more serious, social-reform sort of way. You know, Mojitos and Cosmopolitans. These guys look like they just grabbed a case of beer after Intro to Cataloging and went to town.

Speaking of sloth…

Here’s some baby sloths. (thanks Kafkaesque)

These sloths remind me of the time I went to a residence hall library program with my friend RyanGalaxor Nebulon” Hughes. (Hi Ryan! Where the hell are ya?)

They had brought in a bunch of rainforest animals to the residence hall to, I dunno, promote reading or something. There were a bunch of snakes and fuzzy things, a scorpion, and a two-toed sloth. At the end of the program, the audience was invited to come up and pet the animals. Ryan decided that he should pet the sloth. Ryan HAD to pet the sloth.

I kind of lost track of Ryan after he went up to the sloth, and when I found him again he was bleeding. Ryan had been bitten by the sloth.

As you know, the sloth is the Slowest Mammal in the World. It is known for moving only 5 or 6 feet a minute. Yet here was Ryan, bleeding. “It looked so cute”, Ryan said. “When I saw it open it’s mouth, I thought, oh! it’s going to do something even cuter! I didn’t know it was going to BITE me!”

I believe to this day Ryan has a scar. From sloth.

Let this be a lesson to you.

Library School angst

Where O where should this nice person go to library school?
I got this letter the other day:

I was thinking about applying to the Library and Information Science program at Wayne State University here in Detroit and was wondering if you had an opinion on their program? I’d love to go to U of M but I don’t think I’d get in nor do I have the money to go there. Just wondered if you knew or heard about Wayne State’s program.

Please keep in mind that I am not a career counselor, and am in fact a big web designer hypocrite who hasn’t spoken to a patron in years. If that doesn’t bother you, read on.

First of all: Nobody has the money to go to Big Expensive Schools like the University of Michigan. I certainly didn’t. My friends didn’t. Except maybe that one woman who wore expensive suits. The rest of us did three things: Took out Loans, Got Scholarships, and Worked Our Butts Off. Look, see? No butt.

Don’t worry about funding yet. Worrying about funding comes later and will represent one of the many delightful themes of graduate school. Worry about getting in first. Both schools are reputable and, I assume, have some sort of decent admission standards. Still, buck up little appleblossom. This ain’t rocket science. Write a decent essay, take the GRE a couple of times if you need to and cross your fingers. I’d apply to both schools just to cover your bases.

I suspect from the “here in Detroit” bit, that Wayne is geographically closer to you? This is nothing to sniff at, since driving to a distant city to attend class quickly becomes wearisome. If you are in a position to uproot and go to Ann Arbor, however, U of M is a great school. I have no complaints about my THREE years there (don’t ask). The library students I met were smart, funny, geeky and motivated. The interdisciplinary stuff was good for everyone, and you end up with all sorts of cutting-edge library and life skillz.

I don’t know much about Wayne because

1) it is a library school and I never wanted to be a librarian. Not a traditional librarian anyway, with the patrons, and the books and the reference.

2) it is in Detroit and

3) it isn’t as prestigious as U of M. I know this sounds mercenary, but hey, race you to the upper middle class.

If anyone out there can advise this promising young librarian about the Joys of Wayne State or any stuff I missed, please do.