New Moon on Monday

It’s been a month since I started my new position as an Information Specialist (great title, right?), a month to get used to this change and settle in to a new routine. I’m very happy to report that I don’t just like my new job, I love it. The staff at the branch have really welcomed me and made me feel at home. The general vibe at the branch is laid back and cheerful. Everyone helps everyone else out, so that I’m sometimes performing adult reference, sometimes teen or children’s reference, sometimes circulation–and that’s often in the same day. I get a lot of face-time with patrons, but I’m also encouraged to take breaks when I need them and work away from the public when I need time to myself. I usually sit at the information desk, but I’m also encouraged to get up and walk around as much as I need to, which is good for my ADD brain. The branch manager met with me yesterday to check in with me and see how I’m getting along. I’m very open with her about my ADD, anxiety and depression. We talked about my various duties and agreed that it’s important I don’t get bored, but it’s better to err on the side of me being bored every so often than overwhelm me with too much to do. I have a difficult time saying no to things, partly because I want to make people happy and partly because I have very little sense of when I’m overextending myself, so it’s really good that she recognizes a need to keep me from taking too much on. She also encourages my strengths, which I get to use much more than I did in Web Content.

At the same time, I’ve noticed that the front page of our library website, which was my responsibility when I was in Web Content, is looking much, much better now. The promotional images are very engaging and dynamic, and content changes frequently throughout the week. It’s clear that web content was just not the right thing for me to be doing, and while I recognize I made positive contributions to the Web Content Team, I think they’re doing much better work without me. That further confirms I made the right move. It makes me very happy indeed.

A year ago, I wrote about how I was losing my interest in libraries. After a month working public service full-time, I’m rediscovering why I loved working in libraries in the first place. It’s a lovely feeling.

The Road Taken, So Far

I have a confession to make. It’s been bubbling beneath the surface for at least a year or two. I’ve talked to close friends and family about it. It’s probably been in the subtext of this blog (and Twitter and other places on the internet) for a while, but I haven’t come right out and said it. Now I’m going to come right out and say it:

I’m not really interested in libraries anymore.

I’m not saying I don’t like my job. On the contrary, it’s good, solid work that’s frequently fun. And I work with a whole lot of really amazing people who brighten my life. The job is very, very good.

I’m also not saying I don’t like libraries as institutions anymore. I love being in libraries and I think libraries are a crucial part of a free, civilized society.

But I’ve lost all of my interest in thinking about and discussing large library issues. I don’t want to blog about libraries or read articles about libraries or present at professional conferences about libraries. I’m bored with all of that. I want to go to work, do my job, then leave and think about other things. I like my library job, but…

…but I don’t really feel like a librarian anymore. I really like my job, but it doesn’t feel like a career to me. It isn’t who I am.

I went to grad school to get my MLIS because at the time, I didn’t think there was any other way for me to have a career. I was tired of working retail, which is what I mostly did before I got into libraries. I didn’t think there was any way I’d be able to make money by writing or otherwise being a geek. Libraries seemed like the best bet.

Has that changed? In a sense, no. I haven’t really made any money any other way, so I don’t know that there’s any way besides libraries to support myself. But I do know that I’ve got more faith in myself now. I believe that I can work hard and get my writing (prose, poetry, reviews, etc) out there. And I think it may be possible for me to even make a living at it. Basically, librarianship was my fallback, because trusting myself and actually working hard to be what I dreamed of being was too hard. It’s getting easier now. But as it gets easier, as I learn to trust myself and believe in myself, I find myself getting more and more disinterested in librarianship.

Professionally, this may not be the best thing to post. But I want to be honest with myself and the people around me. I feel like I’m at a crossroads right now, and the path I want to take moves me away from librarianship. I still value all of the friends I’ve made in Libraryland and I’m not going to be quitting my job any time soon. But in a certain sense, I’m moving on.

The e-Book User’s Bill of Rights

After last week’s announcement that publisher HarperCollins is putting a cap on the number of times their e-books can be checked out from OverDrive, I’ve been even angrier than I usually am about the way publishers and distributors screw consumers and users of the rights they have with non-digital content. One of the main reasons why I don’t think e-books will make bound books obsolete any time soon is because bound books are so much freer in use than e-books. You can’t use e-books on whatever device you want without using some third-party software (and sometimes circumventing DRM). You can’t lend e-books for however long you’d like. You can’t resell or donate e-books. In many cases, you don’t even really own e-books, you just pay for the licensing to read them.

So I was very happy to read Sarah Houghton-Jan‘s post this morning of an e-book user’s bill of rights she created with Andy Woodward. I don’t think this bill of rights is the end of the discussion, but the beginning. Luckily, she’s released it into the public domain, so I’ll reprint the entire blog post (as she’s asked people to) and hope the discussion continues. Libraries and e-book users can’t just shut up and take what corporations are offering. We have to fight against this money-grubbing insanity.

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights is a statement of the basic freedoms that should be granted to all eBook users.

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights

Every eBook user should have the following rights:

  • the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
  • the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
  • the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
  • the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks

I believe in the free market of information and ideas.

I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can flourish when their works are readily available on the widest range of media. I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can thrive when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access, annotate, and share with other readers, helping this content find new audiences and markets. I believe that eBook purchasers should enjoy the rights of the first-sale doctrine because eBooks are part of the greater cultural cornerstone of literacy, education, and information access.

Digital Rights Management (DRM), like a tariff, acts as a mechanism to inhibit this free exchange of ideas, literature, and information. Likewise, the current licensing arrangements mean that readers never possess ultimate control over their own personal reading material. These are not acceptable conditions for eBooks.

I am a reader. As a customer, I am entitled to be treated with respect and not as a potential criminal. As a consumer, I am entitled to make my own decisions about the eBooks that I buy or borrow.

I am concerned about the future of access to literature and information in eBooks.  I ask readers, authors, publishers, retailers, librarians, software developers, and device manufacturers to support these eBook users’ rights.

These rights are yours.  Now it is your turn to take a stand.  To help spread the word, copy this entire post, add your own comments, remix it, and distribute it to others.  Blog it, Tweet it (#ebookrights), Facebook it, email it, and post it on a telephone pole.

To the extent possible under law, the person who associated CC0 with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work.

 

Getting More Social

I recently decided to take a hiatus from the Library Society of the World. I’ve got a lot going on in my personal life (that I don’t really feel like talking about here) (but in case anyone’s worried, let me reassure you, it’s good stuff, not bad), plus a lot going on at work, and the LSW was starting to feel like work, not play. So, I decided to step back and take a break.

We’ll see how long that break actually lasts, though, because just after I declared my hiatus, the superhuman Laura Crossett took it upon herself to upgrade the LSW site to WordPress 3.0 and install BuddyPress. The LSW site is now a fully-functioning social site! You can create your own profile, send private messages to other members, create groups, post to the forums–it’s really awfully cool! I sincerely hope people take advantage of the site in the same way they’ve taken advantage of FriendFeed, the original LSW wiki, Twitter and Meebo–to make and build professional and personal connections. And since the new site is a lot more fun, I may come back from my hiatus sooner than I’d originally thought.

Special

“Because women don’t have special powers. Let’s dispense with that theory right now. They don’t have intuition, they don’t have a sixth sense.”
–Jeremy Goodwin (Joshua Malina), Sports Night

I’ve been reading library-centric blogs since 2003 and doing my best to participate in library-related discussions for about as long. I’ve noticed something that’s really starting to stick in my craw.

Librarians love to talk about how special we all are.

This basically comes in two different flavors: librarians are awesome because we have special values, amazing skills and we touch people’s lives in crucial, near-mythic ways; or librarians are pathetic because we as a whole are insecure, passive-aggressive, socially awkward, fashion-challenged and nerdy.

I’m coming to realize I think both of these ideas are complete and total bullshit.

Librarian are not inherently dysfunctional, neurotic or emotionally stunted. I say this with a great amount of affection for the human race, but the fact is a lot of adults are dysfunctional, neurotic and emotionally stunted. It’s not particular to libraries, nor is it more prevalent in libraries. Let’s stop putting ourselves and each other down as a profession, because it’s simply not true.

And while I’m proud to be a librarian and think libraries are very important to human society, librarians themselves are not cleverer, more insightful or special than other working people. Yes, we have certain professional skills that we (hopefully) get better at the more we exercise them. The same is true of doctors, painters, automotive mechanics, farmers and strippers. Let’s take pride in our work, but let’s not put ourselves on a pedestal. Let’s just recognize that we, like other working people in our society, have a job to do.

Librarians are not special snowflakes. We’re not divine and we’re not demonic. We’re just people, for better and for worse. That’s all.

This is How It’s Done

My friend Royce Kitts is the director of the Tonganoxie Public Library in nearby Tonganoxie, KS. The library has redone its website, and it looks fantastic! Check it out!

The site has a definite look to it, but it’s not overdone. It’s comfortable and appealing. It’s easy to find things. I love the picture of the old card catalog at the catalog search box. I absolutely adore the “world’s nicest library” tagline. And the first post at the top of the page? A listing of library rules and guidelines for staff. Sheer brilliance! I think it sets a new standard in transparency.

I’m floored at how simple and wonderful this site it. Well done, Royce!

Movin’ & Shakin’ & Rhymin’ & Stealin’

Now it can be told: in January, my good friend/partner-in-crime Steve Lawson and I were notified by Library Journal that we were among this year’s Movers & Shakers. I was honestly very surprised and conflicted. Of course it’s a huge ego-stroke. And it’s flattering that other people nominated us for this. (Whoever you are, THANK YOU!) But this is also kind of an “establishment” thing, which Steve and I usually set ourselves outside of. And to be honest, I don’t feel like I really did much moving and shaking this past year. (Surviving, yes. Moving and shaking, not so much.)

But it is sincerely flattering, and it’s really nice to be recognized for the work (and play) Steve and I put into the Library Society of the World. And it’s a huge honor to be included among the other Movers and Shakers. Congratulations to all of you! And here’s a public high five with my fellow carping nerdboy, Steve Lawson! I’m so glad I know you and get to make mischief with you! You, sir, rock the block!