deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
It's odd to pull up your blogs in the morning and see your own name, you introducing yourself, at the top of the list.

Gender and Fan Culture, Round 16, Part One: Deborah Kaplan and Alan McKee, over at Henry Jenkins' place.

The generosity of Henry for making these conversations possible, the drive of Kristina Busse for rounding us all up and making this happen, and Alan McKee's all-around wonderfully funny smarts have made this entire experience a thoroughgoing pleasure. As an independent scholar, I get far too little opportunity to interact with others in media and fan studies outside of the sometimes stultifying atmosphere of conferences; this has been really a great experience for me.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I've been far too overwhelmed to post here recently, or even to read my blogs, and for that I feel immensely guilty. I've been doing so much: getting settled in my new job at Tufts Digital Collections and Archives, working on my research on romance fiction, working (far too little) on the project I'm doing with Rebecca Rabinowitz on subversive children's literature.

I've also been talking with Alan McKee in preparation for our installation of Henry Jenkins' fangirl/fanboy detente. That has been an absolute joy. It's so wonderful whenever you find another scholar who delights in examining the same kinds of questions that you do. Both of us have found such pleasure in talking about media fandom, and I confess it has been from both a scholarly perspective and a fan perspective. This, of course, is the most wonderful part about being an acafan; the shameless delight in the subjects of our study.

I wonder how much further I would have gotten in children's literature scholarship if the academic blogging community had existed 10 years ago. Would I have made further inroads there? I've made such friends in media and fan scholarship, real genuine friends, people I love and care for -- and I suspect I will be making similar friends in romance scholarship, based on what I've seen of that community. As an independent scholar, it is so discouraging to have no infrastructure for my fields of study. And it's not like I'm not busy, it's not like I'm not doing this scholarship in my spare time after work and dinner and gardening and feeding the cats. If it weren't for the social network of wonderful people who share my interests, I don't know if I would be able to keep it up.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
At the end of June, I will be leaving Brandeis to accept a position as Digital Resources Archivist at Tufts, and I'm experiencing major seller's remorse. Not buyer's remorse -- I am extremely excited about joining the team over at Tufts Digital Collections and Archives -- but seller's remorse. I don't want to leave my baby, my digital collections, with so much exciting work going on here.

The fact is that in only a year we've built the digital collections here from the glint in the milkman's eye to a robust and scalable program which will be ready to launch in a few weeks. What I'm most proud of is that I think we've built something which can live just fine without me while they hunt for a replacement, and what I am most upset about is leaving for somebody else all the great ideas for projects we've been forming as we've approached the finish line: Institutional Repository; ETDs; special faculty projects; integration with the University photography department. So all of you out there who read this humble blog and might have the skills to foster my baby? Apply for this job. The Brandeis Digital Collections deserve the best.

So, Tufts. Why am I so pleased about a position which looks like a step down? I'll be going from driving the entire digital collections initiative at one university to being responsible for a small component (management, ingest, and maintenance of digital objects) of the digital collections at a roughly equivalent university. (Not to mention that I will be moving from DSpace to Fedora, and so far, I very much prefer DSpace.)

Over the years that I've been working, I've learned something startling about myself: I'd rather be a small fish in a big pond than a big fish in a small pond. Which is not to say that I would rather be a peon or cog in the machine -- anything but. Everyone who knows me knows that I am chock full of opinions. But I want learning opportunities, mentors, people to teach me things. At the best working environment I ever had -- The Company Formerly Known As, as we like to call it -- I was smack in the middle of a large group of people which included both some of the best mentors I've ever had and some really terrific entry level people who were eager to learn. There was the opportunity to teach and learn from my peers.

I've had a great time over the last year at Brandeis learning by doing, learning by screwing up, learning by attending classes, learning by attending conferences, learning by reading blogs and mailing lists and conference proceedings. I've had my trial by fire, and now it's time for me to get some solid mentoring. The conferences I've attended over the last year have been chock full of presentations by people in the group I'm about to join. Now is my chance to really learn from people who've been doing this for a long time.

Also, I would be lying if I didn't admit that proximity to my home and a walking commute played a large part in my decision to change. One of the advantages of working in a university is gaining the University community. As a car-free person, I'm so distant from Brandeis geographically that I can't take advantage of that community. At Tufts, I can.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I've been seeing occasional resumes from librarians who've paid more attention to whuffie than to skills. Conference presentations, published papers, and frequent contribution to mailing lists and bulletin boards -- but an inability to answer direct questions in an interview. Candidates who are excited by the potential offered by new technologies and Library 2.0, but who can't talk about the practicalities of library work, even after several years work in a library. The whuffie might get a foot in the door, but it doesn't get anything after that. If it's clear there's no substance to a candidate, we don't continue with that individual.

I find this fairly reassuring, as I've been thinking lately about my own career and what I'd like to do with it. I've been given the opportunity to have a shift at the university's reference and information desk -- a fairly low-profile opportunity, as such shifts generally are. And I love it. Today I helped two students find the resources for semester-long projects, while showing them how to recognize from a citation whether something was a journal or monograph, how to read our catalog system to see whether or not we have the resources electronically or in print, how to find government documents... It was fantastic.

I know many people who are loaded up on social capital are *also* people of substance. But it's good to remind myself that the relationship between social capital and substance isn't 1:1, and that it's fairly easy to see when there is nothing behind a good dose of social capital.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
If you believe, as I do, that there is a crisis in library education that threatens the very existence of libraries and librarianship, you are likely to draw a negative reaction from a variety of people. First, there are the millenniarist librarians and pseudo-librarians who, intoxicated with selfindulgence and technology, will dismiss you as a "Luddite" or worse. They and their yips and yawps can safely be left to their acronymic backwaters and the dubious delights of clicking and surfing. Then there are the increasing numbers of faculty in LIS schools who are, at best, indifferent to libraries and, at worst, hostile to libraries and theircontinuing mission. Their concerns are with "information science" and other topics that are marginal or irrelevant to the work of libraries.

Michael Gorman, our favorite bombast, in the May issue of American Libraries [pdf]

I know mocking Michael Gorman is so yesterday, but honestly, to be president of the primary library association and -- whether he agrees or disagrees with the broad spectrum of opinions his opponents hold -- to publicly brand everyone disagrees with him as "pseudo-librarians" with "yips and yawps", and to call everything labeled "information science" as "marginal or irrelevant to the work of libraries". Goodness.

Mr. Gorman, there is a crisis in library education. It's that while you can't see how core library knowledge and values can be compatible with technological and cultural changes, library schools are churning out unemployable graduates because your organization isn't doing anything to market professional librarianship to budget-strapped schools, towns, and universities.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Recently, I had an extended interview for a job for which I was ultimately rejected. I don't know who did get the job, but I'm sure I'll know soon enough. You see, this interview was to become Somebody in the library world. The person in this position will be a Mover and Shaker in the world of librarianship and technology. She'll have the opportunity to see potential improvements in librarianship and make them happen, to change the rules, to be part of the paradigm shift. I'm sure in the coming years I'll see her name at conferences, in books, on papers. And I'll be a little jealous every time.

As luck would have it, my next interview -- before I'd even been rejected from the Somebody position -- was to be a Nobody. A cog in a library system, about 6 steps removed from any reference or research or information. My job would be to make life a little more efficient for those who make life more efficient for those who enable the people who do actual library work. And what I discovered, when I interviewed for the Nobody position, was that I'd been corrupted by the interview for the Somebody position. While I'd not gone into librarianship in the hopes of fame and fortune, suddenly I found all other library positions paling before the reflected glory of my unrealised Somebodyness. All my unrealised hopes and dreams (the novelist I'll never be, despite my mother's constant pressure; the open-source revolution I never made; the PhD I never got; even the BNF I'm not) brought to light in all their unattractive, spotted, warty nakedness. Suddenly the simple library jobs for which I'd dropped my career, gone thousands of dollars into debt, and changed my life seemed petty.

It's hard getting my perspective back. I remind myself that it's easy in this day and age for a smart person to become Somebody if she so chooses. I have this blog: if I think of clever and world-shattering ideas I can post them. I'm a programmer: if I don't like existing library software I can write my own, better software. I'm literate and intelligent: I can write articles, attend conferences, and generally make a Somebody of myself. But only if I want to. It's not going to happen because an employer tells me so, but only if it's so important to me to become Somebody that I do the work.

Is it that important to me? I don't know. I'm happy enough in my life, and don't generally think I need to be on the forefront of changing the world. I don't want to be a name everybody knows, though I'd certainly not mind the private satisfaction of knowing that the Somebodys out there owe some small measure of their success to me. (I always did crew in high school plays. Does it show?) It wouldn't have occured to me until I interviewed for the Mover and Shaker position and realised the idea thrilled me. (And terrified me, in equal measure.)

I have to remember that being a librarian is, by definition, being Somebody. Remind myself of all my old lessons in social justice and community activism. Think globally, act locally, and all that. And I do remember, usually. Except late at night, when I'm trying to sleep, and I'm drowning in might-have-beens.

Note to self: Self, remember how [ profile] parenth_blog and [ profile] mirith convinced you to become a librarian? It was because they showed you how much you'd love reference, and they were right.

Self answers: Doh! I forgot. And Self gets back to the busy game of looking forward to reference and instruction at a conventional librarian position.
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