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

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

A Portrait of the Librarian as an Eccentric Neighbor

I used to live next to a retired librarian named Ralph. He converted the University of Idaho’s library collection from the Dewey Decimal System to the Library of Congress. It took him seven years. When I was 22 years old I, along with five of my closest friends, moved into the house next to his. A couple of days after we moved in, Ralph introduced himself and asked if we’d be willing to help with things around his house, like changing light bulbs. (At his age there are some things he should not be doing, like climbing on ladders.) Of course we agreed. To thank us he baked loaves of bread or pies. Because we were careless, our door was always unlocked and he left them on the kitchen counter or in the fridge. Sometimes he’d have us over for dinner. Dinner would often last 6 hours, because Ralph would ramble about all the letters to the editor he had written, all the places he’d traveled to, all the nuances of all the languages he knew, and all the contradictions he’d found in different translations of the Bible. Ralph is kind of boring.

Once a group of us (boys and girls) were hanging out. For whatever reason we had a surplus of ugly brown fabric with a cowboys and Indian print. We decided to make loin cloths out of the fabric. That night it started raining, a lot. Our backyard was a steep slope of grass. We threw a blue tarp on the grass, covered ourselves in dish soap and spent most of the evening sliding down the hill in dumb loin cloths. The next morning everyone who lived in the house received an e-mail from Ralph saying he’d left a book for us on our coffee table. The book was The Guide to Getting It On. Ralph is also very funny.

It’s been, like, 6 years since I lived next door to Ralph, but we are still in touch. The last time I was in Idaho, I stopped by his house and he showed me some new speakers he got for his computer. To show off what the speakers were capable of, he opened a youtube video of some Australian bird chirping. When Ralph was on his honeymoon in Australia, he said this bird chirp woke him up and drove him nuts every morning. During the video he looked at me with a big toothless grin. At the end he clapped his hands and started giggling. He said to me, “Tim, I’ve traveled the world, but now I can do it all from my office. It’s truly incredible.” Ralph is very sweet.

Catherine wrote a great blog post a couple weeks ago about how the library is a place where socially isolated people can go to be a part of a community and potentially alleviate loneliness. When I first read the title, “The Only Person You’ll Talk To All Day,” I thought to myself, “That is totally true. If it weren’t for my job in Wells, I wouldn’t talk to anyone all day,” but it turns out that isn’t what she meant. Maybe that comes off as sad, lonely, or pathetic of me, but it’s not meant that way. I simply intend to point out it works both ways and such a mutual exchange is what sets libraries apart and makes them places for community. Oftentimes it’s easier to see what we do for patrons than it is to see what patrons do for us. Yet, it is important to recognize community isn’t something we offer to our patrons. Rather, in conjunction with patrons, community is something created within the library.

Every year Ralph stands outside and introduces himself to the new tenants and invites them over to change his light bulbs and eat frozen pizza. Until a couple weeks ago, I thought it because he was a lonely old man who just wanted someone to talk to. Now I think that is unfair and fairly one-sided. Ralph may be lonely, but that doesn’t mean if he were not lonely he would never have introduced himself, invited us over, and continued to stay in touch for so long. Too often I feel like I’m doing Ralph a favor by talking to him, but really he is doing me a favor; he is inviting me to be a part of something outside my small, insular world. In the same way, I think it often feels like by talking to patrons and listening to or even encouraging their ramblings on, I am doing them a service. In truth, they are equally doing me a service; they are taking me out of myself, making, for a short while, their needs my needs and their interests my interests. In the end we (hopefully) both leave a little better off than when we arrived. To me, that is the basis for a community. Both sides give, both sides receive, and both sides benefit.

When Ralph introduces himself to his neighbors and invites them over, he isn’t doing it because he is unbearably lonely. He is doing it because he spent his life as a librarian building a community with friends, strangers, neighbors, students, faculty, colleagues, and whoever else was around. It’s the only way he knows how to interact with his surroundings, and I find that admirable. Someday in the future, it would be nice if librarians were no longer defined by their relation to information (i.e. “information specialists”) and instead defined by their ability to foster a hospitable environment where everyone feels welcome, able to contribute, and a part of a community.

-Tim Berge

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.


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.


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!


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

A Reminder for Impartiality

The other day as I sat at the West Tower circulation desk here at Wells, I was approached by two young men. While the shorter of the two hung back with a smirk on his face, the other one proceeded to ask (quite loudly, as if he had never been in a building before) whether or not the library had any pornography. Surely this young man was joking, trying to get a rise out of me. I committed little effort to helping this man and simply directed him to the Kinsey Institute because again… surely he was not serious. It only took a half hour for me to see the error of my ways.

It was at that time that another young man came to me asking for pornography. Thinking that something had to be going on, I conducted a reference interview (which is something I realize I should have done with the first guy). It was through this reference interview that I came to understand, as an assignment in a gender studies class, students were tasked with finding academic sources focused on pornography and how it affected society as a whole. Once I was able to legitimately help this individual, the shame in how I had treated the first patron soon overwhelmed me. My assumptions had prevented me from effectively helping an individual with a legitimate reference question. While I am not proud of the way I handled that first situation, I hope my errors can serve as a reminder to us all that as librarians we must suspend our judgments and preconceived notions the moment we start our shifts. This reminder for impartiality, however, can go further than just the reference desk. Impartiality and the suspension of judgment should be the foundation of any interaction we have regardless of the state of our relationship with the person, be it stranger, friend, or spouse. The sooner we as a society can open our ears, hear what needs to be said, and work together toward a solution, the sooner we can achieve an inclusive and understanding society.

-Brian Plank

The Only Person You’ll Talk to All Day

A couple of weeks back, The Guardian published an editorial generally discussing how libraries must find more creative services to reach its public in the face of budget cuts, closures, and the competitive rise of Amazon and Google. But this is hardly news; librarians have been hearing some version of this spiel for years now. What caught my eye was the headline, a quote by the anonymous librarian who penned the article: “For many library visitors, I’m the only person they’ve talked to all day.”

This quote is later contextualized within the author’s assertion that libraries provide a community and safe space for otherwise socially-isolated people. And this notion deeply resonated with me in my own experience at the reference desk. Just the other day I was at the desk with a colleague and he took an hour-long phone call from a woman who required citation assistance. I was only privy to half the interaction, but from my colleague’s end of the conversation I could tell it took a distinctly personal direction. From what I overheard, my colleague was prompted to discuss his current academic leanings, the campus he attended for his undergrad, his own encounters with citation, his background in philosophy, and other forms of casual chatter.

I certainly can relate to this encounter in my own experience staffing the reference desk. I can recall quite a few instances where a patron’s simple request regarding library resources transformed into a forty-minute discussion about everything and anything. I remember one woman who approached the reference desk just to ask for directions, only to end up regaling me with jet lag tales so hilarious they left me teetering precariously on my stool with laughter. Another instance involved a patron calling for information about the air time of a televised political debate, which then transitioned into her relating an adorable childhood experience she had with Herman B Wells (her mother was employed as his secretary).

And now here I am, rambling on just as so many library patrons are want to do. But let me clarify—these patron ramblings are not annoying or tedious, and I in no way think it beneath me or time-wasting to listen to these tangents. I like to think that reference librarians are fulfilling a function beyond that of resource assistance; that we are in some capacity contributing to the responsive, welcoming atmosphere that lends relevancy to the library of the 21st century. Some people come to the library needing books. Some people come to the library needing study space. And some people come to the library to, in some way, alleviate their loneliness. All of these needs are legitimate and equal, and as an aspiring reference librarian I hope to address each of these to the best of my abilities.

And now, for a tangent of my own…Here’s my favorite library-related comic (gotta give it up to Calvin & Hobbes):


—Catherine Fonseca

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:

Fetters, A. (March 22, 2013). “Chinua Achebe’s Legacy, in His Own Words.” The Atlantic. Online:

Flood, A. (February 9, 2016). “Girl’s drive to find 1,000 ‘black girl books’ hits target with outpouring of donations.” The Guardian. Online:

Kandell, J. (March 22, 2013). “Chinua Achebe, African Literary Titan, Dies at 82.” The New York Times. Online:

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