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The ‘Olympics Rule’

Although I am now focused on special collections, I try to read materials from other areas of library-land so as to not become too myopic for my own good. 

One non-special library blog that I enjoy reading is Letters to a Young Librarian, because we are all just trying to figure out our next steps in life, no matter where we are on our career paths. 

A guest post from Librarian Kelly Jensen (You’re going to piss people off), caught my attention a few weeks ago as it’s a universal issue for anyone who encounters people pretty much ever: upsetting people with your decisions and actions.

While I don’t have day  to day interaction with patrons, I have absolutely been in scenarios that resulted in large amounts of feedback, both written and verbal. This has taught me firsthand that you really can’t please everyone, and that you shouldn’t take too much energy away from your task to try to. This is not to say that complaints or concerns are not valid, just that it’s important to keep them in perspective when assessing your overall impact or success. 

My shorthand for this thought process is something that I call the Olympics Rule. In Olympic gymnastics competitions, both the highest and the lowest scores are dropped as part of the final scoring process. This removes any outlier data that could throw the averages of the athletes’ scores and is intended to make the results more accurately tied to the specific performance. 

In practice, this means that I take both the highest compliment (possibly from a friend who attended the program and might be a *teensy* bit biased) and the harshest criticism (possibly from someone who spilled coffee on themselves as they tripped over their dog while running late to the program) with a proverbial grain of salt. If I notice the same one complaint over and over, or maybe even twice, then it’s automatically reexamined for validity/adaptability. 

This helps me to keep the overall feedback in perspective, and to focus on what I really can improve for my next presentation or event. In turn that gives me a greater sense of control and confidence in my decision making, hopefully making me a better presenter/event coordinator! 

Exhibitionist?

Reading this blog post this past week has reminded me of a Special Collections facet that I struggle with, exhibits. It’s not the *wanting* to do them so much as the having the resources to do them that is difficult here.

While we do have a climate controlled collection, we have no true display case in which to show our more fragile items in the reading room. In the past, displays have been confined to the bookshelves, which are lovely, but just not good for photographs or other documents.

I have talked with staff here and we all agree that getting a display case would be great, so in the coming months I expect to be scouring Craigslist and eBay looking for a good deal. Best case scenario we can get one that a patron or Board member has sponsored!

If you have been in a scenario similar to ours, what creative display options have you come up with?

Horses of a different feather

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a joint meeting of the Society of Ohio Archivists and the Ohio Local History Alliance. It was a two-day affair but unfortunately I was only able to attend the Friday sessions. Nevertheless, it was a very educational day, almost more for what was experienced outside of the panel sessions than during them, and that, I think, is the sign of a great conference. 

When I go to other library conferences, I am usually the odd duck out because of the small size of our staff (and budget!) and the archival/special collection nature of our library. This event was different as it was mostly local museum staff and archivists of varying topics. While our collection scopes might have been different, hearing about the struggles that other small organizations are facing was a welcome relief to me. When you hear people talk about how they run on 100% volunteer staffing, or just one full time employee, and see the great things that they do, it really gives you a feeling that while you might not be able to accomplish *everything* you are aiming for, you really can do quite a lot if you pace your efforts.

And besides, if you finished all of your goals, wouldn’t that leave you bored with nothing to do?

Updated Blogroll

Just some minor housecleaning today, I’ve updated the blogroll to reflect blogs that I’m currently reading. I’ve been shifting away from public library based ones to ones that deal more with special collections issues and topics, and I’m reading lots of really good posts! My biggest goal now is publicize the fact that we exist and to make the collection more accessible, as opposed to in the public library setting when the goals were focused more on the customer service aspects, as most people are aware that their neighborhood has a public library! 

It’s the first day of the rest of your career

Well some days I feel on top of everything and some days I just don’t, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I like feeling that I have more to learn, I don’t like feeling like I don’t have the time or the resources to do it though!

Here at my library we don’t have much control over our website, in the immediate sense. We work with a volunteer who is so gracious to donate her time but does not work here in-house with us. So anything that needs to be added has to be emailed to the volunteer with instructions and then she emails back when she’s added it. It’s wonderful to have a volunteer willing to do this for us, but there are definitely downsides.  Now that I am full-time here I have the time to work on projects that often involve publishing things on our site to be used for reference, so I’m frequently emailing these things to our volunteer, and worrying about taking up too much of her time.

The idea of adding these things ourselves has been percolating in my head for a few weeks, and a conversation has been started on how we can do that. But of course I have grand visions for what I’d like the site to be, and limited time to devote to it. And what would happen to the site if I were in charge of it but to leave? Who would maintain it? All valid concerns, but I guess those are the bridges we cross when we come to them.

This brings me to the title for this post. Yes I know how the internet works, and yes I know basic HTML (thank YOU, required MLIS courses!) and the philosophy/mechanics behind how a site looks. But what about behind THAT? The hosting, the servers, the back-end things that lovely services like WordPress help you avoid while still having your own website? I’m told it’s not much to learn and I’m only mildly intimidated by it, but it is a reminder that as new things come down the professional pipe, there are sure to be times you need to start from square one to learn a new skillset.

But I’m glad for that, as learning never gets old!

My bad…

So I’m unofficially the worst blog writing sort of person there is, apparently. I thought all of this would be quite easy! Tappity tap tap and there’s a great new post…but no. I think about it nearly every day, too bad that doesn’t count! So, it seems that I need to reevaluate how I want to go about things, schedule wise, output wise, everything wise. While doing that I’m also going to make an effort to be more active on the blogs that I already read because now that I’m experiencing things from the other side of the fence I’ve realized that it’s lonely out here! Well that’s all for now. Stay tuned for further updates, I guess!

A different way to remember

Last week I was on vacation and did not get to post, but since libraries are never far from my mind I could not help but tag this blog post from PLA when I saw it.

As we all know, last weekend was the 10th anniversary of an event that changed all of our lives. Many would argue that our lives have changed for the worse, but I won’t expound upon that here.

This past weekend was filled with remembrances, most of which focused on overt metaphors and images of patriotism such as public gatherings and memorials.

While these events are very important to the continued grieving and healing process of many, in my mind they were all to be expected. Of course there are going to be speeches and media coverage, and specials on cable dedicated to looking back and how we all felt on that day in 2001. That doesn’t lessen the sentiment behind those events, but it does make what the Bensenville Library did in commemoration even more striking.

In a direct quote from them, because I can’t say it any better myself: “Libraries represent the sum of all human knowledge, and they represent equal access to that knowledge.  Libraries represent freedom of expression, celebration of diversity, a playing field that is level, preservation of heritage, and commitment to the future.  There may be nothing more antithetical to terrorism, hatred, bigotry, and fanaticism than the American Public Library.

We believe there can be no more fitting tribute, no more appropriate
commemoration of September 11, 2001, than for libraries to simply be there.

We invite libraries throughout the United States to join us.  We propose that
libraries of every type, every size, and in every state, for those 24 hours, remain
open and conduct business as usual: facilitate communication, foster
citizenship, promote understanding, guarantee freedom of access to
information, and above all, on that particular day, stand with doors wide open
as a remarkable symbol of our freedom.”

Wow.

Reading that really blew my mind for a second, and I have been thinking about it ever since.

Memorials and services are understandably a very important part of the human experience, but how right Bensenville is when they say that being there for their community, to continue to do the work that they believed in on September 8th 2001 and that they believed in even more on September 12th, is a fitting tribute to the people of our country, and even the rest of the world.

To me, this statement and ethos really does speak to the whole world, and I think that’s why I am drawn to it. Though it’s hard to remember in day to day life, I really do feel that when anyone in any part of the world is suffering, it is a detriment to us all no matter where we happen to be geographically located. None of us was able to choose where we were born.

But there are many things that are universal, thankfully not just suffering. The desire for happiness, comfort, knowledge, even entertainment. And as librarians isn’t this what we want to provide, even if in a very small way, to the patrons of our communities? And what better way to counteract one’s enemies (no matter who they are) than to resolutely continue to do the very thing they are trying to stop you from doing?

I hope that Bensenville continues this tradition, and I hope that many (ok all!) other public libraries at some point are able to join the effort too. I would love to make that kind of statement for my personal and professional beliefs, and also to be a part of a community that was willing to make the same statement.

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