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

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

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

 

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.” 

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

Great Library Blogs

The internet is a wonderful tool that allows users to access and share all kinds of information. Many people and organizations in our internet-savvy society turn to blogs to gather and share ideas or discuss issues of both a personal and professional nature. Libraries are no different. Blogs are a great way to meet new people, brainstorm, discuss issues within the library and information science field, share new ideas, and in some cases poke fun at our profession. For those looking for some great blogs to follow, here are just a few of the many great blogs sure to provoke much conversation among fellow librarians and information professionals:

Letters to A Young Librarian First up we have Letters to a Young Librarian where Jessica Olin and her guest bloggers impart advice to library science graduate students and newly minted professional librarians. This is a really great blog for those just starting out in the profession and provides the reader with some great real-life examples and a variety of topics ranging from strategic planning, to job hunting, as well as some overall career advice. For those still considering their specific path in libraries, Jessica provides the reader with a number of great interviews with practicing librarians.

ARLISNAP

For those contemplating a more artsy focus ARLISNAP is for you! This handy dandy blog is the gateway to all things art and supplies some great resources for students and new professionals looking to make their way into art librarianship. It’s also a perfect platform to share ideas pertaining to this particular library field. Content on this blog is provided by a variety of contributing professionals including IU’s own Jasmine Burns from the Fine Arts Library!

Library as Incubator Project

Speaking of art, for those seeking to gather creative ideas and learn more about the intersection between libraries and the arts, look no furthur than The Library as Incubator Project. This little gem of a blog promotes the creative collaboration between libraries and artists by highlighting the ways that libraries and artists have come together through various partnerships and collaborative projects.

ArchivesNext

Don’t worry, aspiring archivists, there’s a blog out there for you too. Try checking out ArchivesNext which provides some great content on the issues facing archives in the modern day. Topics include discussions on technology, professional identity, professional organizations, and other news and issues related to the archival profession.

Annoyed LibrarianNext up we have a blog that has garnered a lot of attention in the library and information science world. You’ll either love it or you’ll hate it. The Annoyed Librarian is probably one of the more hotly debated library-oriented blogs out there and draws quite a variety of reactions due to its counter-cultural nature and bitingly honest dialogue. While some condemn it for its pointed remarks about librarianship and somewhat grumpy and “insulting” tone, it certainly is an interesting read one way or the other.

 

Swiss Army Librarian

For those looking for a comrade in public services the Swiss Army Librarian is your man! Brian Herzog’s blog presents the reader with a plethora of experiences on a subject that is near and dear to any public services-centered employee here at the IU Libraries: the reference desk. Join Brian as he tumbles from one situation to another and experiences the joys and pains of working at a public library reference desk!

Lastly here are some suggestions to insert a little bit of fun into your life as a librarian. When you’re down and out and need a good laugh, hop on over to Fake Library Statistics, I Work at a Public Library, Awful Library Books, or glance at the daily Unshelved Comic Strip to brighten your day!

Comic

Shameless plug:
Also don’t forget that we have some great blogs here at IU Libraries!  Check out:

Indiana University Archives Blog
The Moving Image Archive Blog
GLBT Library Blog
E. Lingle Craig Preservation Lab
Wylie House News and Notes
ET2: Government Info, Maps, and Microform Services

And of course you can always follow us here at the Wells Reference Blog!

-Julia Kilgore

If you liked these blogs you might also like:
Mr. Library Dude
The Daring Librarian

Short Stories for the Weary Student

Around this time of year, as workloads start to pile up and and midterm assignments loom ever closer, I inevitably find myself neglecting my leisure “To Read” list, and the stack of half-read and yet-unopened books I had eagerly acquired slowly starts to collect dust. As much as I enjoy reading, and no matter how many times I tell myself, “This is the year! I will make it through my entire reading list!” I can never fully live up to that expectation. School and work slowly eat up more of my time, and after spending hours doing my required readings for classes, sometimes the last thing I want to do is sit down and commit myself to reading another couple hundred pages, no matter how well-written they might be.

One solution I’ve found to help me make room for fun reading during the school year is to read short stories. They are, well, short, and don’t require the same kind of time commitment that a full-length novel usually needs. I can get through one story in an afternoon or two, and if I have a week when I can’t manage to dedicate much time to reading, I’m not picking up a novel halfway through and trying to remember what was happening when I left off. One of my favorite collections is The Basil and Josephine Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which follow the adventures and mishaps of Basil Duke Lee (based on Fitzgerald’s childhood self) and Josephine Perry. They are charming, surprisingly deep, and stick with you long after you turn the last page. And if I’m looking for something more on the mysterious and suspenseful side, pretty much any short story by Edgar Allan Poe does the trick. His poems and short stories are completely captivating and thoroughly spooky. Since I grew up in Baltimore, Poe’s work admittedly has a special hold on me, but I’d recommend them to anyone in a (tell-tale) heartbeat.

For me at least, short stories are an easier way to get in some leisure reading and make sure I still have a chance to wind down and escape for a little bit with a good story. And after all, having those moments to make time for yourself and temporarily get away from all the stresses and day-to-day worries is so important, no matter the time of year.

So without further ado, here are a few lists of top short stories and short story collections to get you started:

Classic Short Stories List from the Huffington Post

NPR’s Best Books of 2015: Poetry and Short Stories

The Short List: Best Short Story Collections of the 21st Century (So Far) from Powell’s City of Books

And if you really can’t bear the idea of looking at more words on a page, try NPR’s Selected Shorts podcast series!

-Sarah Klimek

Chinua Achebe, Father of African Literature

For my contribution to this blog, I thought I would expand more on one of my reading suggestions. I first learned about Chinua Achebe and Things Fall Apart as an undergraduate studying anthropology. As a white woman I unfortunately had not had much direct education in African literature or African studies, but I was lucky enough that this was the focus of many of my courses. The enduring lessons I learned from these courses and Chinua Achebe’s work are particularly relevant for Black History Month and for any socially conscious librarian conducting reader’s advisory.

Chinua Achebe
Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe is considered the father of African Literature. Born in 1930 in Nigeria, Chinua Achebe first achieved critical acclaim for his novel Things Fall ApartThings Fall Apart takes a critical look at colonialism and its effects on Africa with Achebe’s hypnotic story telling.

Achebe has spoken at length about the power stories can have on people. Reiterated in an NPR interview from 2009, Achebe details his own personal struggle under the influence of Western literature. In particular, Achebe takes issue with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as Conrad’s novel negatively portrays Africans at the turn of the century. Heart of Darkness in fact gives only one line to a native African.

The second issue that Achebe notes is the influence of perspective in storytelling. In the 2009 NPR interview and throughout his career, Achebe has retold a paradigm shift he faced when he realized he was not the white, British main character of Heart of Darkness, but one of the native Africans that the main character alternately fears and feels superior to.

The legacy of Achebe’s work in literature and social commentary has been to create a discussion around the creation of African stories by Africans themselves. Another of the authors mentioned in our book suggestions, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, also highlights the “danger of a single story” and Achebe’s legacy in a fantastic Ted talk (found here).

Also worth mentioning is the inspiring story of Marley Dias who is collecting books where black girls are the main character using the hashtag #1000blackgirlbooks. Speaking to the newspaper The Guardian, Marley Dias says, “I started this because in my fifth-grade class I was only able to read books about white boys and their dogs. I understood that my teacher could connect with those characters, so he asked us to read those books. But I didn’t relate to them, so I didn’t learn lessons from those stories.”

Check out her website here.

Ultimately what books a person chooses to read is a personal decision, and reader’s advisory is only half of the work. But it is important to keep in mind that what we read can influence how we see ourselves and others.

-Carin Graves

Sources and Further Reading:

Achebe, C. “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” The Massachusetts Review, (4) 782.

“Chinua Achebe: ‘Heart of Darkness’ Is Inappropriate.” (October 15, 2009). NPR. Online: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113835207

Fetters, A. (March 22, 2013). “Chinua Achebe’s Legacy, in His Own Words.” The Atlantic. Online: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/03/chinua-achebes-legacy-in-his-own-words/274297/

Flood, A. (February 9, 2016). “Girl’s drive to find 1,000 ‘black girl books’ hits target with outpouring of donations.” The Guardian. Online: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/feb/09/marley-dias-1000-black-girl-books-hits-target-with-outpouring-of-donations

Kandell, J. (March 22, 2013). “Chinua Achebe, African Literary Titan, Dies at 82.” The New York Times. Online: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/23/world/africa/chinua-achebe-nigerian-writer-dies-at-82.html?_r=0

Celebrating Queer Books

I love the serendipity of following two posts about favorite books, favorite things we want others to read and favorite things we cannot help but read and read again. I hope this list introduces you to some new favorites that you’ll be excited to read and return to, savor and share.

This January, American Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Round Table (GLBT-RT) announced the winners of the annual Stonewall Book Awards. The award, first given in 1971 to Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller, recognizes “exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience.” If you’re interested in checking out the current winners and honor books from the IU Libraries, look no further.  

The word "George" in colorful letters with a little face peaking out of the O.
George by Alex Gino.

For more Stonewall Book Award winners visit the GLBT-RT’s Awards List page.

ALA’s GLBT-RT also announced the 2016 Over the Rainbow book list in January. The list compiles 68 titles published from July 2014 to December 2015 in categories such as “Top Ten Favorites,” “Art/Photography,” “Fiction,” “Graphic Narrative,” “Non-Fiction,” “Non-Fiction/Biography/Memoir,” “Non-Fiction- Essays,” and “Poetry” as well as a list of books from 2015 under consideration for the book list. What I’m trying to say is, there are a lot of wonderful options out there! Some books you can check out from the IU Libraries include:

A person stands on train tracks over a river in a blue dress, with flowers in their hair and a cane in their left hand.
Dirty River by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.

Happy reading!

-thom sullivan

February: A Time for Reflection

February means a lot of different things for a lot of people. Some of us are thinking about the Super Bowl, truly a national holiday by now. Others, to be sure, are looking forward to sharing Valentine’s Day with a special someone–or possibly defiantly opposing the tradition. But for many people, February marks the annual month where we take the time to honor some of the most important and influential people in history. I’m referring, of course, to Black History Month.

Black History Month was first established as a week in 1926, long before it was expanded to a month in 1970. The United States officially accepted the practice in 1976 in conjunction with the American Bicentennial. It has since expanded to the United Kingdom and Canada, with several other countries getting involved as well. Following is just a (very) short list of the people and works you should know.

An excellent entry point into the subject would be Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Color Purple. Despite being often censored or banned, the novel has persisted for four decades, detailing the fictional stories of black women living in the South in the 1930s, before the Civil Rights movements of the fifties and sixties. It is a harsh, yet beautiful account of the lives of strong women. It later inspired a Steven Spielberg film by the same name, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Like poetry? How about music? Legendary poet of the Beat Generation, Amiri Baraka, chronicles the history of African-American music and how it was shaped by the experiences of Black cultures in his study, Blues People. Ostensibly, it is a book about music, but it goes so much deeper into the cultural impact of Black Americans. With his poetic background, you can be sure that Baraka brings a flair to his writing and focuses some attention on the intricate relationship between music and poetry.

Black History Month does not, however, focus solely on pre-Civil Rights history. Instead, the month is a time for celebrating all defining careers and moments in African-American history. The undeniable role African-Americans have played in the world of sports is showcased in two films: 2001’s Ali and 2012’s 42, respectively about Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson. Both are equally moving biopics about two great athletes.

Much criticism has been made against the celebration of months such as this–that one month is too limiting for an entire culture, that we should be celebrating all year long, that the month makes certain people out to be heroes while minimizing the effects of others. These arguments may be true, but the fact remains that it is never a bad time to enjoy some classic works by African-American creators. This year, for Black History Month, celebrate by reading some classic literature from our African-American heroes, or by watching a film detailing the life of one of America’s greats. It is a fantastic time to reflect on a formative dimension of our history and culture.

For some more information, visit the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center on campus. They recently held an event where local high school students read works by African-American authors. It was the 13th annual occurrence of the event, and the Center continues to provide excellent programs connecting Indiana University to Black culture.

-Joseph Wooley