Saying Goodbye

Tracking down full-text online access to the correspondence of Giuseppe Garibaldi. Banging out that 10-page report you saved until the last minute. Putting your jeans on after eating an entire pint of ice cream. Some things in life are just inherently difficult.

Saying goodbye is pretty high up on that list for me. While I’ll admit that not every moment of my time here at IU Bloomington has mirrored the picturesque conclusion of a classic Disney film, the experiences and opportunities this university has afforded — as well as the amazing people I’ve met — have shaped me into the capable, passionate librarian who now faces the prospect of leaving all those things behind.

While I could write endlessly about the creative, intelligent, engaging librarians and library students I’ve had the honor of working and building relationships with while here — and I sincerely hope you all know who you are — I’d like to focus this final Spring 2016 blog post on the privilege it’s been to edit the work of some of those very people.

If you read my first blog post of the school year, you might remember the somewhat grandiose plans we (myself and Nicholae Cline, Scholarly Services Librarian) outlined: To paraphrase, we wanted to create a space where we (the public service assistants of Wells Library) could talk about what being a librarian means to us. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea what this was going to look like. I listed a few ideas librarians had already posed and hoped that would be enough to get us through the year without too many kinks in the system.

I never could have imagined what this change would actually inspire, the enthusiasm I would see from so many bright young minds. Not only did we share our thoughts on what it means to be a librarian — How far do our duties extend? Have we turned into automatons? How do you measure the value of a library? — we told you about the lessons we’ve learned so far, talked about exciting new innovations in our field, shared our fears about life after IU, recommended some excellent reads (Asian/Pacific American works here, other blogs here, comfort reading here, graphic novels here, queer books here, and short stories here), and wrestled with tough questions about the past as well as the future of librarianship.

What I’m trying to say here is I think somehow, without any real direction, myself and my fellow public service assistants really did what we set out to do. I think this blog became the written embodiment of the passionate, critical, jumbled brains that truly belong only to those people brave enough to call themselves librarians.

-Kaitlin Bonifant

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Ephemera and Librarians as Scholars

As I’m sure many of my colleagues remember from my many emails requesting shift coverage, I recently attended a conference. The theme of this year’s Nineteenth Century Studies Association’s conference was “The New and the Novel.” The conference is interdisciplinary and welcomes scholarship that explores all nations. In addition to panels centered around my interest in American and British literature, I learned about French etiquette, Australian brush fires, and American national portraiture.

One of the more interesting presentations I attended engaged my interest in ephemera. A woman was beginning a study on a specific 19th century ballad. She traditionally studied 18th century literature so she was new to navigating the world of ephemeral resources. I use a lot of old newspapers, broadsides, and other ephemeral works in my writing, so I can understand the difficulty she faced as I have had to learn how to find these resources myself. Neither of my departments (English or ILS) has taught me how to locate these materials and I often resort to combing through searches that return thousands of hits.

I have since been in touch with this scholar and she has asked me if I can keep an eye out for ballads and song sheets related to her subject. I would like to, but where do I begin?

This is a different type of request than we usually receive from scholars. It is not a single question, a research consultation, or a request to help navigate a specific database. Library science is a service field and we are more accustomed to helping patrons in this way. How do we then treat these requests from scholars who treat librarianship as a type of scholarship? These requests suggest we establish a more long-term relationship rather than a limited series of exchanges. How long do we stay in contact with these patrons? How much work do we put into assisting them if they are not “our” (i.e. our library’s) patrons? Do we do extra research outside any that we are already doing or do we email whenever we happen to stumble upon something of interest?

This brings up interesting questions, ones I believe some of us will encounter as we attend conferences, work with patrons who are visiting on fellowships, and move from one job to another (hopefully keeping in contact with patrons from our last institution).

On a last note, if anyone knows anything about databases of ephemera, broadside ballads, or songs sheets from the late 18th and 19th centuries, will you let me know?

-Steph Luke

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Lessons Learned

The end of the year is upon us, and while the summer is just a short break until next fall for many, some of us will not be returning. (Pause for tears.) I graduate in May along with a number of my peers in the Department of Information and Library Science who worked behind the reference desk with me, and I am given over to reflect on my time working reference and instruction at the Herman B Wells Library. I have learned a lot in my time here. I learned from my instructors, peers, supervisors at various jobs, but I also learned quite a bit from the students and patrons I have served the past two years. I wish to share with you a little bit of what I will take away from my time behind the reference desk.

First, I have had to learn to control my outward show of emotion. I have been told by past supervisors that I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I have had to learn to wear a metaphorical jacket to cover those sleeves. This way when a well-meaning patron decides they need to teach me the most ineffective way to search for resources, I can calmly say, “Well, what if we try using this database instead and using this search term and just see what we get,” without any hint of amusement. This also helps on the reverse when I have failed to understand a patron’s needs until well into the conversation and have just wasted their already limited time. Showing frustration or getting upset helps no one and does not solve the problem.

Second, I have learned humility. As a budding “information specialist” I often wanted to believe I could answer all patron questions and help them find the resources they needed. That is until one of the Kelly students or, my favorite, medical science students asks you something using words you have never heard before and you have to repeatedly ask them to spell sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. (I promise, it’s a real thing.) It is at these moments I have learned to swallow my pride and refer them to someone who knows where to find the top five companies worldwide who posted the highest third quarter earnings in 2006. Alas, unlike my wife, I do not know everything. (Just don’t tell her I admitted it.)

Third, I learned procrastination is alive and well. I am not alone in my devotion to it, and it in fact has many adherents whose faith is far greater than my own. I would venture to estimate that 8 out of 10 requests for an article or book are needed for assignments due the next day or, and I have had more of these than I can count, assignments due that very same day. I have therefore had to learn to remain calm and think outside the box a bit. This has meant sending patrons to the Monroe County Public Library or even Barnes and Noble. There are few feelings in life as good as when you have helped save a fellow procrastinator from themselves.

I will end with this. I have learned so many more things in my time working the reference desk here at the Hermie B library than I could mention in a single blog post. I have learned about a plethora of different subjects from so many different fields of study, many of which I know I never would have if not for the patrons seeking help. Most importantly, I learned that working in an academic library is what I want to do with my life, and I have my peers, superiors, instructors, and also the patrons of the library to thank. So, to you all, I say a heart felt thank you.

-David K. Kloster


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Prepping for the Races

Spring is upon us, and with that comes the stress and busyness the end of the semester brings. To counterbalance this, there are also a slew of lively events happening around campus and the city of Bloomington. Perhaps one of the most popular events that takes place in April every year is the Little 500 bike race.

The race was started in 1951 by the Indiana University Student Foundation. In 1988, a women’s race was also started. Both events raise money for scholarships through IUSF, and to date have raised over one million dollars for working IU students. This year, the races will be held on April 15th and 16th at Bill Armstrong Stadium. The races can also be heard on the radio or watched through a live video stream. More information on that can be found through IUSF

How can the library help you prepare for the races? Here are some ideas:



Breaking Away: A film released in 1979 that follows a group of four friends who have just graduated high school in their hometown of Bloomington, Indiana, and end up competing in the Little 500 after clashing repeatedly with Indiana University students. The movie was filmed around campus and Bloomington.  Copies of this film can be found at various libraries around campus. 



The Little 59780253335739_med00According to the IU Press, this book is “the definitive history of Indiana University’s legendary bike race, The Little 500, a spring tradition since 1951 (and the basis for the Academy Award-winning film Breaking Away). Schwarb goes behind the scenes with winning teams and heartbroken losers, and chronicles the weekend’s effect on a growing campus and ever-changing student body.”

Everything is BicycleThe Lilly library is currently holding an exhibition on bicycles. The exhibition chronicles the history of the bicycle, from its rise to popularity in the 1890’s to the role of the bicycle here at Indiana University and in Bloomington.

Looking for more? Check out the IUSF and IDS twitter feeds to keep you updated on all sorts of Little 500 events leading up to the races. 

-Malissa Renno

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Confronting Those “How-Am-I-Going-to-Get-This-All-Done-And-What’s-The-Point-Anyway Blues”

It’s that time of year when the libraries are filling up with students cramming for the end of the semester. [Can you believe that we only have four weeks left? (Why am I reminding myself?)]

Young man having trouble studying, on white background

Look familiar?

While we may feel like chickens with our heads cut off, overt displays of this manic energy are probably less entertaining in real life than as a star performance onstage.* It’s that time of year when we need to be at our calmest, in order to assure students everything’s going to be all right (at least we tell them that), and we can help them find those five sources for the paper they have been putting off all semester. Last semester I had a young man approach the reference desk who was in need of English sources about Korean traffic problems and potential solutions that would support his paper, which happened to be due in only two hours. He was certainly anxious, and added to my own frantic state of mind, our combined anxieties led to a less-than-perfect search. Of course that paper was probably not going to turn out as well as he would have liked, but our interaction might have been better if I was more sensitive in calming him down. We can’t do much to curb our patron’s immediate state of mind other than being calm ourselves (or offering events like De-Sress Fest, which occurred a couple weeks ago). What we can do is focus on limiting our current stress levels and being cognizant of how our interactions are affected by our personal mental states.

We all have our own problems to juggle, with group projects, overloaded work schedules, final papers, job searches, and personal relationships. So I’d like to suggest a few resources I’ve used to help keep me outwardly, and hopefully inwardly, calm and focused in this maelstrom of academic activity. Hopefully you’ll find them helpful as well, which might improve all our states of mind and relationships with patrons.

Perhaps the most useful resource I’ve used is David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, which was recommended to me by a junior faculty member who lovingly referred to it as GTD. The book focuses on making time for both the things you need to do and things you would like to do, to create a good balance of work and life oriented around priorities. Another suggestion is Christine Carter’s The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Work and Home, which follows along some of the same lines but adds the science of happiness and satisfaction that can improve your work, focus, and personal happiness. 

These readings are for a general audience (they are not in our own collection, though MCPL owns copies of both), but I don’t think we should overlook books of this ilk simply because they seem superficial, hokey, or like just a quick way for the authors to make a buck. I can tell you, while I don’t subscribe to everything these authors suggest, taking a moment and seeing how I can be more productive with less stress has been plenty freeing in the past semester.

Finally, many of us may be struggling with the big questions of why we are in higher education and information fields, and what their broader purpose is. Higher education can serve a very important purpose in our society, which we should really consider in addition to how our own personalities and skills might fit librarianship. Dealing with these questions head-on can provide an ethical component to getting things done and confronting the malaise surrounding the broader purpose of higher education and our positions as public service assistants. I’m personally looking forward to some summer reading of Michael Roth’s Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters and Helen Smalls’ The Value of the Humanities

I hope by improving our own personal conditions, combating stress, improving productivity, increasing the potential for happiness despite overwhelming activity, and considering our broader purpose as future librarians, we can become an even better (and calming) resource for our students.

-Bret McCandless

*Thus, the reference in the title to Stephen Sondheim’s “God-Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me-I-Oh-You-Do-I’ll-See-You-Later Blues.” 

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Fist-bumps for the Fraud and Heretic, or Learning One’s Own Faith

A few weeks ago, a student came to the reference desk for help finding articles on cerebral palsy and education with text-to-speech technologies. I felt as though I had been flailing about in my efforts to assist him, jumping around from database to database–here, in OneSearch, now in ERIC–much like an inexperienced gymnast trying to perform a routine without breaking anyone’s legs. I felt this way, yet the student seemed to find the interaction extremely valuable, thanking me for all my help. Returning to the reference desk after checking out some books, he even gave me my first fist-bump of approval on paid time, a thank-you for flailing. The mismatch between his experience of the interaction and my internal feelings could hardly be more pronounced.

Much has already been said about the spectres of impostor syndrome, the sense that one is faking it and scandalously getting away with it, roaming large in library land. Even before I began my hunt for library jobs and other exotic birds, I’ve often felt like an outsider–not because of any kind of ostracization, of course, but because I end up feeling out of my league, out of my element, or otherwise out of sync with the zeitgeist. Job postings can only exacerbate such feelings, with entry-level positions seeming to require 3-5 years of experience, advanced skills in virtual-reality ninjutsu, and a PhD in Critical Critical Studies all out of the gate.

I don’t have any magic tricks to share for making impostor syndrome disappear, unfortunately, but for my own part, I’ve been learning to take stock of my successes to counteract it. Through my work here as a reference assistant and a student, I’ve also been slowly coming to realize I can do well, and maybe even thrive and excel, as a librarian not in spite of my sense of being an outsider, but perhaps in good part because of it. Indeed, it might be my not feeling quite at home in the world of libraries, of not belonging, that itself becomes the grounds for a sense of belonging and purpose for me as a librarian.

-Dean Ericksen

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Recognizing Asian/Pacific American literature

Beginning the last week of March and throughout the month of April, IU is celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which is observed nationally during the month of May. Because of this, it’s a great time to recognize the Asian and Pacific Islanders who have made significant social and cultural contributions to literature.

So, in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (and because librarians and library students often love to talk about books), I put together some recommendations of great works by Asian/Pacific Americans. All of these can be found through IU Libraries.

At the drive-in volcano
At the drive-in volcano, Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s third collection of poetry, spans geographic continents, from the Philippines to India to New York City, and spans the emotional continents of love found to love lost to love found again. You can read or listen to “First Anniversary, with Monkeys,” one of the poems from the collection, at Poetry Foundation.

My American Kundiman
In My American Kundiman, Patrick Rosal uses the idea of the kundiman, which is a Filipino song about unrequited love, as a source of inspiration for this collection of poetry, which is his love song to America. Learn more here.

Huntress, Malinda Lo’s second novel, is a prequel to her debut, Ash, but works as a stand-alone novel as well. While Ash is a retelling of Cinderella, Huntress is a beautifully crafted story influenced by the I Ching that tells the story of the first Huntress in the same world as, although earlier than, Ash. Learn more here.

More recommendations:


The next American revolution : sustainable activism for the twenty-first century by Grace Lee Boggs

The making of Asian America: a history by Erika Lee


Everything I never told you by Celeste Ng

The sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen


Gutted by Justin Chin

For more recommendations, check out the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, which is given out by the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association.

-Kristin McWilliams

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From Batman to Blankets: There’s a Graphic Novel for Everyone

It’s always nice to click with someone at the reference desk over shared interests. Last semester a patron asked where she could find the graphic novel section in Wells and my face lit up. Unfortunately, I couldn’t give her the direct answer she was probably looking for since they’re split between the Browsing Collection in the West Tower and the PNs on the 9th floor of the East Tower, not to mentioned scattered across various campus and RPS libraries. I didn’t want to set her loose in the wrong direction, so I asked the perfunctory, “Did you have a specific title in mind?” But like most patrons just looking for something new to read, she asked if I had any suggestions. This girl knew her comics. I went through my short repertoire of big hitters like Maus, Persepolis, and Sandman, but she had read them all. When patrons ask for recommendations for a particular genre or form it helps to have read or at least be familiar with popular titles, but is it really our job as reference librarians?

From a historical perspective of reference services, we’ve been doing what’s called readers’ advisory from the very beginning. In 1876, Samuel Green wrote an article for Library Journal on “Personal Relations between Librarians and Readers.” According to Green, every library should be equipped with:

[O]ne of the most accomplished persons in the corps of your assistants–some cultivated woman, for instance, who heartily enjoys works of the imagination, but whose taste is educated….to consult with every person who asks for help in selecting books. This should not be her whole work; for work of this kind is best done when it has the appearance of being performed incidentally. (p. 79, emphasis in original)

While Green makes some antiquated assumptions about gender and class, the scenario he describes is not a far cry from what we experience today. When patrons ask for recommendations, we should still be able to fill their information need. His advice: be well-read and able to recommend things a patron would actually be willing to read.

Many of us are already well-read, but as Sarah pointed out in her recent blog post we as students just don’t have a lot of free time to read for pleasure. Being in grad school and working three jobs, I find myself gravitating toward shorter forms like poetry collections and graphic novels that I can read in a few hours. I’d like to think it’s come in handy for that rare occasion at the desk when someone is willing to take my recommendations. However, it’s not 1876 anymore and I won’t make assumptions of what I think everyone should read. Instead, here’s a short list of graphic novels and the type of person who might be interested in reading them.

Read Batman: The Dark Knight Returns if you like superheroes and villains with a dark twist. Or if you’re planning to see Batman v. Superman (2016). This Frank Miller classic is arguably the best superhero comic of its era.

Read Watchmen if you’re totally over superheroes and question the authority of vigilantes. (But really, who watches the watchmen?) Alan Moore may be a bit of weirdo, but this is another justifiable classic.

Read Understanding Comics if you want to get meta. Scott McCloud explains all things comics and comic theory through the medium itself.

Read Understanding Comics if you want to get meta. Scott McCloud explains all things comics and comic theory through the medium itself.

More attuned to the real world? Read Blankets if you were an artsy/angsty teen just trying to understand your place in a small town and your long-distance relationship.

More attuned to the real world? Read Blankets if you were an artsy/angsty teen just trying to understand your place in a small town and your long-distance relationship.

black hole

Is this world a nightmare? Read Black Hole if you like Cronenbergian body horror, overt Freudian symbolism, and are terrified of STDs. I read this in a class on comics with a guy named Charles Burns, no relation.


Read Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic if you were an English major. Bonus points if you’ve read Ulysses. Alison Bechdel paved the way for queer comics with Dykes to Watch Out For, but her real success came with this eloquently crafted coming-(out)-of-age memoir.


Read Maus if you’re a history/WWII buff. Another visually moving memoir, Art Spiegelmen records his father’s survivor’s tale of the Holocaust on the page by portraying Nazis as cats and Jews as mice.


There are a lot of great comic-memoirs but this list wouldn’t be complete without Persepolis. Read this book if you were a socially aware child who grew up to speak your mind. Marjane Satrapi illustrates her childhood growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.


Read Daytripper if you like day-dreaming and magical realism. Brazilian brothers Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá will transport you to a world you can write for yourself.


Read Ghost World if you’ve ever felt invisible, fell in love at a garage sale, or loved MTV’s Daria. Daniel Clowes’ magnum opus was also an award-winning screen adaptation.


Neil Gaiman is a self-proclaimed master storyteller, but nothing beats Sandman. Read this ten-volume series if you’ve ever seen ancient gods in your dreams or think Death is best personified by a cute goth girl.












For something a little more recent and ongoing, read The Wicked + The Divine if you see the gods as British pop stars and would give anything to be one of them.


Or read Saga if you like Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and Romeo and Juliet and wonder what it would be like to have all those genres combined.


Last but not least, even though I’m still currently finishing it, read Lumberjanes if you loved being a girl scout and believe in “Friendship to the max!”












Green, Samuel S. (1876). Personal relations between librarians and readers. Library Journal 1(2/3), 74-81.

-Tessa Withorn

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The Job Search Blues

It’s finally that time.  Graduation is approaching and we’ll be free from homework and other projects at long last.  I’m sure many of us are thinking these thoughts right now.  While the prospect of finally getting to work on that novel you’ve been planning sounds great, there’s one problem.  Once school is over, you need a job.

The process of getting a job can be a daunting one for librarians.  While the economy has taken a turn for the better, there are still a limited number of openings, and an even more limited number of openings that fit each individual library student.  Finding a job that specifically fits one’s schooling and job experience will not be the reality for many librarians, at least not early in their careers.  This is a lesson I’ve been learning over the past few months: While I have specifically trained to be an archivist, I am learning I may have to draw on all of my academic and professional experience to find that first job.

The problems of finding a job are compounded for librarians like myself who have partners in similar fields.  Finding a “good fit” means there is a potential for both you and your partner to find satisfactory employment.   While finding two perfect positions can be done, it is not likely.  One of you may need to find something outside your specific field in order to pay the bills.  This is not to say newly-graduated library students have to compromise in order to find a job. Rather we should be thinking more broadly when considering potential positions.  I recently interviewed for a position as a processing archivist in a public library system.  Before hearing about this position, I had never considered working in a public library.  All of my academic training and professional experience relating to archives had focused on academic and corporate settings.  While this position would not be a drastic change from the archives in which I’ve worked, it is part of a library system I had previously never considered as a possible place of employment.  One benefit of this newly discovered potential career path is that, compared with the academic world, the interview process for a position in a public library has been much simpler and more enjoyable, particularly when compared to the interview process for academic librarians.

While I enjoyed my interview and learned a lot about how that process works, I still have to consider my partner in the job search.  This has become even more difficult as she has prospects of her own in another part of the country.  Though this “problem” is really a blessing, it still causes stress.  Trying to figure out which opportunity to invest in fully is a difficult task.  Thankfully there are good resources to draw upon at IU, including ILS Career Services and the faculty and staff of the Wells Library.

While the process of finding a job is difficult and stressful, don’t get discouraged.  Keep reading job postings every day, apply for forty jobs, and eventually you’ll get an interview for a position to which you’ve long forgotten you applied.  It may not be a perfect position but it could be the one that helps you get your dream job.

-Ryan Frick

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Maker Mondays

This semester the Scholars’ Commons hosted a series of workshops to highlight different tools used in makerspaces. In case you missed it, here’s a quick rundown of the five tools we explored. And if you’re new to the maker movement, check out this recent article from the Atlantic that chronicles the rise of the makerspace in libraries.

Google Cardboard
What is it?
Cardboard housing that turns your smartphone into a virtual reality viewer
What can you do with it?
• Watch 360-degree videos on YouTube
• Play virtual reality games
• Create your own 360-degree images, or photo spheres, using Google Street View

What is it?
A kit of electronic modules that snap together to create inventions
Kits start at $99
What can you do with it?
• Make music with the Korg Synth Kit
• Make a Drawbot
• Create your own Bubble Maker

MaKey MaKey
What is it?
A kit that turns everyday objects into replacements for your computer keyboard and mice
What can you do with it?
• Play the banana piano
• Turn almost anything into a controller
• Create interactive art

Raspberry Pi
What is it?
A tiny computer
What can you do with it?
• Send your Pi into outer space
• Make a baby monitor
• Make music using Sonic Pi

What is it?
A micro-controller that allows objects to interact with their environment
What can you do with it?
• Make interactive art
• Monitor moisture levels in the soil of plants
• Keep an eye on your beehive

-Leanne Mobley

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