Daily Thoughts 150: Storm Damage

Yesterday, the storm hit Lacey and Thurston county hard. Trees toppled, houses, cars, and power lines all suffered. With usual commute routes closed this morning was an exercise in patience. I ended up making two trips into town. First, to get my sick kid checked out (he’s fine). Second, to actually go to work. Both took far longer than normal with slow traffic and some alternate routes since the roads I usually take had been closed.

The Adaptable Librarian

Changes in the information and publishing ecosystem require that librarians adapt. These changes raise the question, what is a librarian?

“What is a Librarian?”

A search for a definition offers such gems as, “a person, typically with a degree in library science, who administers or assists in a library.” Merriam-Webster says, “a specialist in the care or management of a library.” Following those definitions, it begs the question of how we define a library. Again, Merriam-Webster says a library is “a place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials (such as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) are kept for use but not for sale.” Google’s info card says much the same thing, “a building or room containing collections of books, periodicals, and sometimes films and recorded music for people to read, borrow, or refer to.” Wikipedia echoes these definitions with additions, such as information literacy and technology instruction.

People?

For the most part, these definitions are lacking key elements of a librarian or library. People, for instance. Other than references to “use” and the section “for people to read, borrow, or refer to,” the definitions lack the human element. Who does the library serve? Why does it exist? Are librarians only caretakers, or do they do more? Many librarians stress helping people of all ages, backgrounds, economic positions, political affiliation, or whatever group you want to create. Everyone. Librarians are fierce defenders of our freedoms, privacy, and access. Of course, roles vary, but few librarians concern themselves solely with collections of stuff. Most are much more concerned with people.

Stormy Days

What does this have to do with the storm? Similar storms regularly batter libraries today. Communities don’t see the value of their library and allow it to close. Shifts from ownership to licensing content threaten the foundations on which libraries stand. Lack of progress from vendors of library technology deal additional blows to libraries remaining relevant. Likewise, librarians wearing blinders doesn’t help. Such as cataloging websites instead of developing search engines.

Daily Thoughts 83: Operation 451, Superheroes, and Librarians

Author's selfieWho is the hero—Clark Kent or Superman?  I think a show about Kent could be interesting, one in which the whole business of stopping crooks, fighting monsters, and catching missiles is a distraction from his true calling as an investigative journalist.

Consider Smallville, which was about Kent growing up and getting to the point where he becomes Superman. It had that potential, except everything in his ‘real’ life ended up being a mask for all of the superhero activity. Imagine instead that the story is about an investigative journalist who is driven by ideals of truth and justice, the freedom of speech, and the freedom of the press. Okay, so the journalist has some special powers (super hearing, x-ray vision, speed, and that whole bullet-proof thing), but is really a driven professional who sees the whole superhero side as a frustrating distraction. One who cares about relationships, friends, and family. One that struggles with the ethical dilemmas of having these abilities. I think that could be an interesting story!

It also gets to some basic questions. Investigating and reporting on the truth potentially impacts and shapes the human conversation. It is something that librarians share with journalism, this adherence to facts and truth.

#LibrariansResist

There are real-life heroes. Librarians have mobilized, as Lisa Peet reports for Library Journal on a whole bunch of librarian/heroes including Rebecca McCorkindale, who created a viral storm with her inclusive artwork. Sarah Houghton and Andy Woodworth created Operation 451, which just launched Mission4—focused on the 4th article of the Library Bill of Rights.

“Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.” – Library Bill of Rights, Article IV

One of the things that I love about all of these efforts is that they didn’t wait for approval. They care about these topics and went with the ideas. A lot has been written about the impact of the recent U.S. election, and it has had a mobilizing effect on many people. These issues aren’t limited to this election, the 45th President of the United States, or this country. I appreciate that the same point appeared on the Operation 451 blog. I’ve had that discussion before with librarians. Do you think something should be done differently? Is it something that requires your administration’s approval, or is it something that you can do on your own?

It might be easier to do some things on work time. It also might not be legal or appropriate. Sometimes it’s much easier to tackle things outside of your job, on your own.

Daily Sketch Challenge

Morning sketchThis morning was one of those days when it seemed like I didn’t have time to get in any drawing. As it turned out, I just needed to allow myself that 5 minutes. Surely, I could afford 5 minutes? I’d like to spend more time, but I could at least do that much. It doesn’t take too long. I managed to do my quick sketch and then headed out to work.

Writing Challenge

I also continued the writing challenge today, adding another 637 words to the story. I’ve been coming in a bit higher than the 400 words planned. My main point, though, is the consistent habit 5 days out of the week. Each day is a new day, with a 400-word goal.