Thursday, October 19, 2017

Interview Post: Matthew Murray


Biographical

Name?

Matthew Murray

Current job?

Visiting Library Fellow in the Scholarly Communication Initiatives department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Libraries.


How long have you been in the field?

I started this (my first professional library job) in January of this year. (Wait, doesn’t that make ME the young librarian? Why am I writing this?)


How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?

I have a cubicle decorated with buttons/pins, some nerdy toys and a “thank you” card from my coworker’s daughter after I gave them a copy of a volume of DC Super Hero Girls. (I also have some posters of NASA’s Space Tourism series that I haven’t gotten around to putting up yet.) I find it pretty cold, so despite wearing multiple layers of office clothing, I sometimes end up also wearing a hoodie and fingerless gloves (to be fair, I am just generally cold…). There’s no natural light unless I go over to the other side of the office, but if I do that I just see the creepy pyramid (Las Vegas is weird). The library building itself is relatively new (it opened in 2001), big (five floors), and nice! During the school year it is almost always packed with students using our public computers and study spaces.

How do you organize your days?

We have Google’s Education Suite at work, so email is through Gmail and everyone has a Google calendar. This makes it really easy to organize meetings, because you can see when people are available. (You can also easily block out time to work on projects to prevent other people organizing meetings with you.) I try to keep “to do” lists for projects I need to work on, but I’m not always successful at keeping them up to date. I’m getting better at setting deadlines for other people (to give feedback on reports, etc.), because otherwise I’ll discover that yesterday afternoon a bunch of new comments were left on something I thought was finished.


What do you spend most of your time doing?
Writing (and rewriting) project plans, emails, reports, help guides, and other documents. We recently finished up a pilot project dealing with ORCID integration using their API. When that was happening I was spending a lot more time looking at (and formatting) python scripts and XML files.
What is a typical day like for you?
I check to see what meetings I have and if there’s anything I need to do for them. Then I check my email and see if there are any new ones I need to read/reply to. Then I’ll start working on any one of a number of projects depending on when I need to get them done, how much free time I have available that day, and what a coworker with whom I work closely on certain projects is doing that day.
What are you reading right now?
I co-host a podcast called Book Club for Masochists that chooses a random genre every month that we then read and discuss. For instance, in October we’re reading dystopian novels, though I haven’t started any yet (suggestions are welcome!). I just finished an ARC of Paperbacks from Hell, which is all about paperback horror novels from the ‘70s and ‘80s.

I’m also always reading about a billion comics and graphic novels. I recently read The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin, and Muntsa Vicente which is a neat cyberpunk story set in a future several decades after all the private information in “The Cloud” went public.

At work I am no doubt reading something about research data management or the latest scholarly communications scandal.
What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
Before I started my Master’s in Library Studies I was told that what you do in class doesn’t matter; it’s what you do outside of class that will get you a job.


Also, know your limits and boundaries; sometimes it’s better to say “No” to something than saying “Yes” and becoming overwhelmed.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
Learning Python (though really, it had to happen someday). Being asked to help organize an event because I am an expert in zines. Being chair of a hiring committee.


Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?
Resist.

What is your least favorite word?
The USA’s president has pretty much ruined the word “trump” forever.

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
Writing and/or editing comic books. (Someday!)

What profession would you never want to attempt?
Capitalist. Any job that would require me to be at work before 8am.

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
One of those powers that can be used to help other people and/or the environment—like widespread, permanent super-water purification.

What are you most proud of in your career?
Every time I am legitimately able to help someone learn something or gain access to information. Plus: Co-organizing the Zine Pavilion, presenting about comics and libraries at San Diego Comic-Con and Emerald City Comicon, co-founding and editing a student journal, and helping create a Raspberry Pi powered book recommendation machine.

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
Swearing in front of my boss’s boss.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Recording/editing my podcast (38 episodes so far!), publishing seven (almost eight!) issues of Two-Fisted Library Stories (a fiction/comics anthology zine), running Cthulhu related role playing games, reading comics and books, reading about comics, editing for No Flying No Tights (a comic book website for library folk), writing postcards to people, obsessing about social media, playing Pandemic Legacy (just about to start June: four wins, four losses), playing video games, and insisting I don’t have to go to bed yet.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Violet Fox. Annie Pho. Sarah Houghton. Amie Wright.


Matthew tweets at @MidniteLibrary.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings - But For Good


I know what you're going to say - all meetings are useless and most are a big pain in the butt. And, to be honest, I used to agree with you. Not anymore. It all changed when I moved into administration, but I couldn't put it into words until now. I spent a lot of time setting up one-on-one meetings with every single person who works in my library, which wasn't the norm before, and explaining why to each of them is going to help me explain to you why meetings can be for good.

I'll give you more detail below, but if you don't have a lot of time to read, the tl;dr is one of my biggest themes on this blog: relationship building. Now, in no particular order, here's what I mean:

  • Since I'm a little more removed from the front lines in this job than I have been in the past (even though I've been training on the circulation desk and have a regular reference desk shift, every other week), meeting with everyone gives us time to get to know each other. This is especially important when it comes to the ten people who work in the library part time, since I don't see them as often and really only work side by side with the one part time reference librarian who works the same reference desk shift as I do.
  • Having a regular meeting schedule makes it so that sitting down with the boss isn't necessarily a punitive thing. Only meeting with staff when things are going wrong makes those meetings feel like being called to the principal's office. For those times when I do have to give negative feedback, I want people to be relaxed and open to discussing what happened instead of being automatically on the defensive.
  • Speaking of giving negative feedback, having a regular meeting schedule makes it so it won't be a thing - us being in an office with the door closed - and it won't cause tongues to wag. One of the worst bosses I've ever had only closed the door for one-on-one meetings when you were in trouble. I'll never forget the time I showed up 5 minutes early for my meeting and found the door of their office closed. I knew, even without being able to hear what was being said, that my colleague who had the meeting slot before mine was being chastised. It is nobody's business except mine and that of the employee in question if I have to give negative feedback. 
  • Regular one-on-one meetings also gives people an opportunity to share ideas that they might not want to bring up in staff meetings. What if someone thinks we need to add a step to the check out process to protect people's privacy, but it will take extra time? Or what if the idea is that we should open up earlier in the morning because students are lined up outside the door? Being able to chat privately with me will give them a way to share that idea.
  • Most importantly, me taking time to meet with them on a regular basis makes them know they are heard. This is me investing my most important resource - time! - in each and every person who works in my library.
Yes, meetings can be a pain in the tuchus. Some days it feels like that's all I do, which doesn't even touch the annoyances that accompany finding coverage for when I need to meet with someone who exclusively staffs a service point. But wow, is it worth it.

So how about you? What do you like about meetings?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Just For Fun: Viktor Victorious


Mr. Viktor, my gray tabby boy, came into my life about a month after Martin the Gozerian died way too young. V was exactly what I needed in my life. He's boisterous and gregarious and goofy - definitely not to be ignored. More important than his good taste in music, as seen in the above (I like Paul's Boutique a lot, too), he's seriously the most happy-go-lucky cat I've ever known. (Except when it comes time for me to wash the bed linens. Then he gives me a face. See below.)


People with whom Viktor has made friends:
  • Every repair person ever. He especially liked the guy in charge of maintenance at my apartment complex in Delaware.
  • The guy who delivered and set up the futon I bought for my second bedroom here in New York. Viktor loved him so much that he sat in the guy's lap while my futon was being put together.
  • Every friend of mine who has come to my apartment. 
  • He may have never met you before, but trust me: Viktor loves you and is your friend, too.

If the rescue organization that brought him into my life is to be believed, Viktor has always been this way. Apparently when they found him, he was in the company of some much younger kittens. The rescue group assumed he was a she, and the mother of the kittens, because of how affectionate Viktor was with the littler kits.

Actually, the only creature I've ever seen him treat with anything less than full on, storybook, eternal love and devotion...? Is my other cat, Zephyr. But even with her, it's more like a kid brother pestering his big sister. (Before you ask, no - they aren't related. I know they look it a bit, but it seems tabby is just very common coloring among Delaware cats.)


And last, but not least, is the fact that he has very refined tastes in cinema. He is watching The Seventh Seal in that picture below - and he watched it very intently for almost the whole film. I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about this striking film by the auteur, Ingmar Bergman, but there's no doubt that Viktor is a fan.


Here's to my odd little man - long may Viktor reign over my apartment and life.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

On Social Media Breaks, Mental Health, and Productivity



Towards the end of the day last Tuesday, I got "Misery is the River of the World" stuck in my head. It wasn't because I love Tom Waits - I do, but that wasn't the reason. No, it was because I'd seen almost nothing but horrors and nightmares (almost exclusively perpetrated by our current administration) on social media that day. To be honest, it had been like that for days and days. Except on Tuesday, when I saw someone compare a thing the current administration is doing to the Stasi, I knew I'd had enough. I said to myself, and to a few friends as I explained the reason for my break from my formerly beloved Twitter, "Misery might be the river of the world, but that doesn't mean I need to swim in it constantly." A bit over dramatic? Yes. Still true.

And so, partially inspired by Derrick Jefferson, I quit. Obviously temporarily, since I posted this in all the normal places. I logged into neither Twitter nor Tumblr nor Facebook - other than to add things to the queue for Owl Zeppelin - for almost a week. It wasn't bliss, but it wasn't bad. The impulse to check came and went, but I got through it every time it came. I knew what I was getting into, though, since changing any habit is hard. The results weren't hard to predict, either... I am so much calmer and more in my skin than I've been ever in recent memory. Also, hella more productive - especially at home. I can't remember the last time I went more than a couple of days without checking at least one of my social media places, so it stands to reason I can't recall when I've been this calm and productive.

I did keep up with news during my time away. I've got a profile set up with IssueVoter.org, and they email me when there is legislation that is important to me so I can call my elected representatives. (Actually, I call Representative Louise Slaughter's Rochester office so often I think her staff are starting to recognize not just my name but also my voice.) I also scanned the front page of Twitter for big news items without logging in, and asked a couple of friends to let me know if anything major was happening.

It was great, but I need to be realistic. I hate the phone so much that social media is sometimes the only way I can keep in touch with some of my friends. That means I need to figure out a way to stay connected without losing my sanity to what's going on in the world. I need to be part of the social media communities I've built/been part of, but without ingesting all the horror and misery. That's going to be a problem, though. "Yes," I can handle. Likewise, "no." In between? Not so much. As a way to build my capacity for "a little," I'm going to try to spend no more than 30 minutes on social media each day - at least until it's a fully ingrained habit. I think much more than that and it won't be out of curiosity and genuinely wanting to catch up - more than that, for me, and it will be wallowing.

Finally, I'm posting about it here for a few of reasons:
  • Saying something publicly means I'm that much more likely to follow through with it;
  • I'm hoping I'll inspire some of you to take a break, like Derrick inspired me;
  • I need to remind myself to take care of myself to be strong for the long haul - because it's going to be a long one.


"Call no man happy til he dies," is a line in that Tom Waits song up there. That may be true, but that doesn't mean I can't try to find some peace along the way.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Interview Post: Ian Clark


Biographical

Name?

Ian Clark

Current job?

Academic Services Librarian for Psychology at the University of East London.


How long have you been in the field?

I finished my degree in 2012, but I’ve been working in libraries since 2005. Initially working in public libraries, I jumped to academic libraries in 2010.


How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?

I work in an open plan office with my own desk space that I can at least personalise a little to make it feel more “me” (which inevitably means Rothko, Orwell and, er, Star Wars).

How do you organize your days?

My main focus at as I write this is getting prepared for the new academic year, so anything that impacts upon that is my priority. Student emails, particularly requests for 1-2-1s, tend to get prioritised, alongside emails from academics. In terms of keeping on top of tasks, I’m terrible at keeping lists or writing things down, or having any kind of organisational system. Basically, I rely on a combination of my memory and, as when feeling super organised, Wunderlist.


What do you spend most of your time doing?
In all honesty, probably dealing with emails! After that, it’s probably 1-2-1 support with students, which I find an effective way to engage with students (as well as enjoyable as I get to learn about different psychology research projects!). As I have large number of doctoral students, I spend a lot of time providing support for them, particularly in terms of systematic literature searches.

What is a typical day like for you?
Usually we start by having a “sweep” of the library, ensuring everything is ready for the day (all staff do this). Then onto emails and the rest of the day is a mixture of 1-2-1s with students and desk duties to support library users.
What are you reading right now?
I’m currently reading The Handmaid’s Tale – which followed on from reading Naomi Klein’s No Is Not Enough. I have a tendency to read political and historical non-fiction...in the current climate it has certainly helped to make sense of recent developments.
What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
Listen to those without the privileges you enjoy and try not to provide instant, simple solutions, but to think more deeply about what is being communicated. I try to keep this in mind, particularly given the state of online discourse.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
Appearing in videos is certainly one thing I wasn’t expecting...I’m not one for being in front of a camera where I can help it.



Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?
Whilst – I seem to use it a lot and I was interested to discover recently that it sounds weird to Americans. For reasons best known to myself, I currently have “WHILST” on a post-it note on my desk. (Alternatively, the naughty schoolboy favourite word is fuck.)

What is your least favorite word?
Customer. It reduces relationships and interactions between people to a purely commercial level.

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
I’d love to attempt to be a professional writer or photographer.

What profession would you never want to attempt?
Anything medical (my partner is a medical professional and I don’t envy her at all – although it helps me keep things in perspective) and anything that might possibly involve heights (I suffer from height vertigo).

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
The ability to remain fit without having to do any exercise (like, when do you see any superhero in the movies actually workout??).

What are you most proud of in your career?
On a personal level, when I had my first article published in The Guardian. The desperate wannabe writer in me was punching the air over that. More generally, I’m proud of helping to establish both Voices for the Library and the Radical Librarians Collective in the UK. Whilst (sorry!) both haven’t exactly overturned government policy or revolutionised library work in the UK, they have both had an impact in their own ways. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the little changes that have been effected by the efforts of a collective, and be too concerned with failures to achieve The Big Things. Too much dwelling on the latter breeds stasis and inaction.

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
There have been times where I’ve overlooked a reading list and not bought the books required for the course. And there was the one time I received an email from a tutor asking where I was. Turned out I should have been delivering an induction session in a lecture theatre, not sitting at my desk going through my emails. I’ve learnt to not let mistakes get to me. We all make them.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Outside of work I like to spend time with my partner and two children, where possible getting out and about exploring our little part of the world. After years of taking photos and playing around with cameras, I finally took a short online photography course earlier this year and I’m continuing to learn and develop my skills.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Any one of my very good friends and comrades (all of which I learn so much from): Lauren Smith (@walkyouhome), Binni Brynolf (@brynolf) and/or Andrew Preater (@preater).


Ian is on Twitter as @ijclark.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Pep Talk



I feel like I've been giving a lot of pep talks lately, and been needing them a bit, too. So many things can bring out our deepest insecurities - new jobs, new responsibilities, mistakes - that I thought it was time for me to write an all purpose pep talk. Or as all purpose as I can make it. Also, feel free to mix and match and use this guide to give your own pep talks to others.
  1. You got this. It's totally normal to feel overwhelmed by something new or big or both. In fact, I'd go so far as to say if you feel completely confident, then you're probably missing something. But you got this.
  2. You were hired and/or given this new project for a reason. You know what you're doing, and if you don't already know then you know where to go for help. That may be a plea for assistance on Twitter or Tumblr. Heck, it may be an email to another librarian that says something like, "I know you don't know how to do this thing I need to learn, but do you know anybody?" (I even get emails like that from blog readers - I always try to do my best, but I'm not always prompt about responses.)
  3. You're going to make mistakes, and that's okay. I've written about this before in a post that was specifically about new jobs, but it extends to new projects as well. Actually, it's something that people long established in their jobs and careers, with nothing new in their lives, also have to deal with. Mistakes happne.
  4. You will recover from bad stuff. Even if it is/was your fault. I promise. It may take a while, or no time at all, but you will recover. I've been fired before and it didn't end me. It was a restaurant job that I hated anyway, but it was still a bit of a nightmare at the time. I found another restaurant job where I made less, but took some student loans to help pay for my last classes and actually ended up finishing my MLIS sooner. I'm not trying to say that bad stuff happens for good reasons - just that getting fired wasn't the end of me.
  5. When you talk to yourself about the thing that's happening in your life, imagine you're talking to a beloved friend instead. No matter how many good things people say to you, you still need to think about how you talk to yourself about whatever it is that's happening. Would you tell a good friend with a new job that their new employer made a mistake? NO! You'd say things like, "take a deep breath and make lists of things you need to learn." Would you berate your bestie for making a mistake? NO! You'd tell them, "yeah, that was a mistake, but how can I help you to recover from it?"
  6. You got this. Yes, I'm repeating myself, but this one is the most important part of the list. There's a cliched old saying - something like, "the only true failure is giving up." (It's not applicable to 100% of situations, because sometimes you need to make strategic retreats or give up on one thing to give another the attention it deserves.) It's a good rule of thumb. We make mistakes; we get overwhelmed; but we keep trying. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Interview Post: Amanda Leftwich


Biographical

Name?

Amanda M. Leftwich

Current job?

Circulation Supervisor


How long have you been in the field?

Four years, but I received my MSLS in August 2017!


How Do You Work?

What is your office/workspace like?

I have a backwards L shaped desk with piles of paper, reserve label stickers, books, and notepads (it looks a HOT MESS right now).  I don’t have any pictures of family or anything fun. I do however have some Frida Kahlo notecards, a candy dish for the students, and a picture that one of my student worker’s shot for a fashion show.

How do you organize your days?

I write down everything that has a deadline on my desk calendar. I’ll mark them off with a red marker when completed. For all other duties, I’ll use my Outlook calendar’s flagging system. It’ll send me reminders of things I need to do (for example, completing timesheets for the student workers). There’s a lot of moving parts for circulation to keep track of, and this system has worked the best for me.


What do you spend most of your time doing?
Making sure my student workers are getting the job done, statistics, billing, and collection shifting projects.

What is a typical day like for you?
A typical day is hectic, especially right now, as it’s the beginning of the semester. The bulk of my job is making sure that the circulation desk runs like a proverbial well-oiled machine. That means making sure the student workers are up-to date with policies and procedures; helping patrons find items in the library; and reminding professors to put items on the course reserves. A typical day is me walking in seeing what’s wrong --- fixing the issue, checking in with the workers, then working on statistics, and finally adding journals into the system.
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading the Wonder Woman comics (Rebirth) series by Greg Rucka, Confused Spice by Mathis Bailey, & Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue Deconnick. I love graphic novels and usually read about three or four volumes of those a week. I’ll usually grab a smaller fiction novel for my train ride. And, I have a TON of reading material on my Kindle. You can never have enough!
What's the best professional advice you've ever received?
Don’t worry if everyone likes you….just get the job done.

What have you found yourself doing at work that you never expected?
Cleaning skulls and bones! The Library rents model skulls, a skeleton named Billy/Ziggy (there’s a debate about the name), and bones for drawing classes.



Inside the Library Studio

What is your favorite word?
Apothecary

What is your least favorite word?
Moist

What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
Aromatherapist. I love working with different scents and healing people from the inside out.

What profession would you never want to attempt?
Anything involving driving for a living (I’ve never learned; nor do I want too). I’m thankful for all the Lyft drivers getting me home safely!

Everything Else

What superpower do you wish you had?
This is a hard one!!? Teleportation would be nice especially if I could avoid lines at security!

What are you most proud of in your career?
I’m still new, but helping students further their own interests and become a mentor to those that have asked. The ability to pay forward what I received as a mentee has been a great honor and pleasure. I’m also proud of another post a wrote for this blog.

If you're willing to share, tell about a mistake you made on the job.
Mostly thinking that everyone has the same level of urgency that I do. Most days, I have a lot of energy to put into work. I’ve come to realize most people like a slower/more thoughtful approach. It doesn’t make it wrong, just different from my style.

When you aren't at work, what are you likely doing?
Planning trips, researching, studying aromatherapy practices, reading, watching a sci-fi show, etc.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Recent graduates/new librarians like myself, diverse librarians, and archivists.

Amanda is on Twitter as @thelibmaven. This is the second time she's written for Letters to a Young Librarian. The first was “Handling Microaggressions in the Library”.