Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Giving Thanks

These are some things I am thankful for this year:
  • a warm and comfortable home.
  • my health.
  • freedom from debilitating depression.
  • my partner, Tony, who brings laughter and love into my home, and who has taught me how to relax without guilt.
  • my secure income and ability to pay for necessities and some luxuries, such as my computer and internet connection.
  • the discovery of a rich and thoughtful community of librarians on the net.
  • my therapy group with whom I share challenges and celebrate insights and victories every week.
  • my coworkers who are such a joy to work with.
  • the opportunity to try new things in my library and volunteer work.
  • the donors who keep our animal shelter financially solvent.
  • a great manager to run the animal shelter on a daily basis.
  • my pets and and the dogs I foster, who keep me grounded in simple things, and show unconditional love.
  • the beauty of the natural surroundings on this mountain in Tennessee.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Java Jackets and Fortune Cookies

I am in a "PR Group" where we have spent some time thinking up ways to promote the library and library services on campus. I am so proud of some of our first efforts!

We don't have a coffee shop in the library, so we ordered these "java jackets" for the popular campus coffee shop across the street. There were lots of ooh's and ah's and "how cute!" comments the day Cari delivered them.

< We ordered the fortune cookies with an assortment of ten different library-related fortunes. We took them to the dining hall to be put out near their popular stir-fry station. Here are three of the fortunes. (Click on photo to view larger version on Flickr.)

<Here's a closeup of the java jacket. (All photos link to images in Flickr.)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Budget Time

Academic Librarian wrote recently about some reasons why librarians wouldn’t want to be administrators. I sent a comment about how in smaller libraries, there are often more opportunities to build management skills, and to have some administrative responsibility, and yet still do "librarian" work.

One of the administrative duties I have found most difficult to learn how to do is budgeting. At MPOW, we are now preparing our budgets for Fiscal Year 2008-2009, which starts July 1, 2008. This is my fourth time through the budget process since my position was changed. Until this, as head of cataloging, I was not involved in buying things or deciding what to buy. I just cataloged it when it got there. My colleagues in Acquisitions and Serials (who now "report" to me) had been involved, and I basically relied on them to do what they had always done, and tried to understand it all. The process is complicated by the fact that our library accounts are all in our ILS, and the University accounts are all in the Banner system. They match, for the most part, which is good, but it's still confusing.

Each year I have understood the process a little more. We have steadily been moving money from print to online, just like every other library, and we've been shifting money from monographs to serials because faculty are requesting fewer books and we've been spending that money on databases and periodicals. The administration really only cares about the bottom line-- the total, rather than what's in each account. But I have to supply explanations or justifications for increases in individual line items that are over 2 or 3 percent. This is the first year I'm actually going to make some adjustments in certain accounts as a method of planning for what I think we need to be spending our money on, rather than what we've spent.

What I find especially difficult is that we are constantly making decisions about buying things throughout the year, based on requests from faculty, consortial offers, and "deals" offered by vendors. Whatever we add or cancel between now and the end of June will not be reflected in the next budget, because we are submitting the budget now. So the budget request always lags behind what we are actually doing.

This is another one of those things they don't teach you in library school. I really don't see how they could, since every institution has a different process. So every year I flounder through it and learn a little bit more. Also, I am fortunate to work in a very collegial environment, where we make most resource decisions in a group, and I feel very comfortable asking for input and help with the budgeting process from this group and my director.

My director, by the way, is in a similar boat, being a new Associate Provost for the entire IT division. My budget confusion probably pales in comparison to hers. Rather than try to take it over with an iron fist, she has left resource decisions to us librarians in that group I referred to above. This makes us feel more responsible and work harder to explain and justify what we are doing, in order to provide her with the information she needs to present the budget request to her superiors. In fact, she extends this style of management to most of the "running of the library," which I think has strengthened our sense of purpose and made us feel that what we do as administrators actually matters.

Friday, November 16, 2007

This Blog's Reading Level

This is my first meme.

Several bloggers I read have applied the Blog Readability Test to their blogs. So I tried it with this blog:

Part of the reason I started writing this blog was to improve my writing (which is hard to do when I don't post, I know.) But I didn't think my writing was so convoluted that it took a genius to read it. So this had me worried.

But as others have commented, we don't know what it is measuring and how. So maybe I don't feel so bad.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Talking about volunteering

I've been asked to talk to a group of high school seniors tomorrow morning about my work with the Humane Society. A private school in my community has a program called the Senior Lecture Series - A Sense of Place. One of the components is learning about community and service. They have a speaker come in on Sunday evening and then on Monday, they go out in groups to meet with various community members who are vested in the non-profit outreach sector. They are scheduled to visit the animal shelter and the shelter manager will give them a tour and talk to them about what we do and why it's needed. The focus of my talk will be more of a personal approach about why I got involved and what made it "click."

This is the gist of what I'm going to talk about.

Finding what you are "passionate" about
Early volunteer experiences
The "click" of how I got involved in animal stuff
Why it's rewarding to me (my convictions)
No cause is "better" than another one
Do the kind of work you enjoy
Levels of involvement and life stages
The danger of burnout and importance of balance and sustainability
Fulfill your commitments, but you choose them, and you get to pick, because it's volunteer work!

I don't know if this will be too long-- I might run out of time. It might be over their heads. I'm hoping to make it conversational and that I will notice if their eyes glaze over. I've never talked to a group of high school students before.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Walking the dogs

Both yesterday and this morning, I took the dogs walking at beautiful Lake Cheston on the campus of the University of the South, in Sewanee, TN.

More pictures on my flickr site at

Saturday, November 3, 2007

In defense of online

This may come as a surprise to many in the blogosphere, but there are still a lot of people who dislike and distrust the online world. They have no desire to sit in front of a keyboard, or send text messages, or read blogs, or do more than what their work may require of them as far as a computer is concerned. Some people only use their email to send the joke or the cute puppy picture on to the people in their address book. To them, the whole idea of online social networking is that it's a waste of time, at best, and dangerous and unwholesome at worst. Many of the people I know in real life fall into this category.

I am a rather gregarious and social person. I enjoy social events and talking to people and I'm one of the people at work who shows up pretty regularly in the break room at 10 AM and 3 PM (part of the culture at our library) when I am not in the middle of something. I smile a lot and can do small talk. I can be a good listener. I'm not afraid to express an opinion. I don't have a busy social life, but I am active in volunteer work and I think I am fairly well-liked by the people who know me. In other words, I do not think I am socially backward.

However, I like interacting online. I like email. I like twitter. I like reading blogs. I even like online dating sites, although I'm not doing that these days. I've met some great people online. Sometimes I've even met them in real life.

But all of my family, and most of my close friends, are completely not interested in these things. Some of them will email me, but that's it, and even some of them prefer the phone. I am met with blank stares or a look of incomprehension or even pity if I try to explain something like twitter to them. Spending time in a chat room (such as the Library Society of the World!) is considered to be a poor substitute for "getting out there in real life and meeting people and doing things."

So I'm a little defensive about my online activities. I feel like I constantly have to justify the time I spend on the computer. I am fully cognizant of the dangers of living vicariously and never really doing anything. You never get any exercise doing that, and you get fat and pale and your eyes hurt. But, um, isn't that what happens when you watch too much tv? Or read too many books?

Yes, we need people in our lives and we need to go out and do things. But we are greatly enriched by this thing called the internet.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Email discussion lists rant

I have been participating in email discussion lists for a long time. I think it was around 1989 or so when I subscribed to the cataloger's list called AUTOCAT. It was on "Bitnet" which was a precursor to the internet. I was a new cataloger, and I loved having a place to ask questions about what I was doing, and even answer a few when I knew something. AUTOCAT is still around, and is very active, and there are many other library-related lists as well. I have been on and off of several of them over the years. I can't keep up with reading all this email, but since I discovered RSS, I've put the ones with web archives on my reader and that makes it easier.

One of my pet peeves is the reluctance of people to actually post to the list. When I ask a question or ask for input, usually I get great responses from helpful people, but many people respond to me privately and not to the list, even though they are not conveying anything private or confidential. And then several people write to me asking me to summarize to the list whatever answers I get, or share with them because they are interested too. That's what the list is for! What good is a list full of questions and no answers? It's a DISCUSSION list, for pete's sake. If people won't discuss anything publicly, it becomes nothing but news items and job listings. I don't have time to summarize responses, and I never know whether to forward private responses to others without asking permission. And it takes time to do that too. I try to thank everyone who responds to me, and I've started adding the following questions:

Is there any reason you did not post your response to the list?
Is it ok if I post it to the list?
If so, would you like to remain anonymous?

I did this recently, and the answers to the first question were that they didn't want to "clutter up" the list.

Last year, I was trying to launching an initiative to step up my department's assistance with the archives. (Subject of another long post.) I knew very little about archives, and so joined the archives list and posted a number of questions. I got great answers, but none of them were to the list! I got frustrated and posted a rant on that list, and several people used the same rationale-- that rather than everyone answering, the questioner should summarize the answers to save everyone's time.

Now if I'm taking a poll, then yes, a summary is appropriate. But if I'm asking how you do something, like, say, what kind of numbering scheme you use for your archives, or how you are managing workflow for e-journal cataloging -- or if someone else asked this, and I was interested -- it is much better to read the responses and where they are coming from than to read a summary. I think wanting to reduce the list traffic is mainly a result of not knowing how to manage one's email application (ever heard of filters, anyone? Another topic for another day) or, as I've said, not knowing about RSS.

I think many people are just afraid to see their words posted for everyone to see. They are insecure and think they don't know enough to be so public, or they are afraid of looking stupid, etc. I remember one person saying that she didn't like to post on a list because she couldn't take it back or correct what she wrote. That's pathetic. There was a huge controversy on the AUTOCAT list about going public with the archives for the same reason. Come on people, it's list traffic, not a thesis.

National Blog Posting Month

I just found out via another blog that November is National Blog Posting Month, or "NaBloPoMo." There is a NaBloPoMo network on Ning, which I joined, and tried to get my blog listed there, but the posted instructions didn't work for me. Also, it appears that you are expected to post your blog there, or double post if you have an outside blog. I dunno about that.

I have been wanting to write more, so I think I will take this on. As long as I don't make it a requirement that every post must be literary or thought-provoking, or worthy of honorable mention in the blogosphere, then I should be ok. If nothing else, my writing should improve.