Thursday, October 6, 2016

Googling Google: Search Engines as Market Actors in Library Instruction


I wrote a lesson plan for Nicole Pagowsky and Kelly McElroy's Critical Pedagogy for Libraries Handbook, Volume 2.

The two-volume set is available for purchase at the ALA store. If you don't mind waiting, both volumes will go open access at some point in 2017 (this is very cool!), and many chapters are already available via institutional repositories and self-archiving, among other means.

My chapter (pdf) focuses on thinking critically about Google's search engine and how librarians can help foster a sense of critical inquiry around searching.
Google searches return sexist, racist, and homophobic results, which both create and reinforce dominant narratives of white supremacy and heteronormativity. That is bad; faculty, students, and librarians alike should know about it and attempt to mitigate the deleterious effects of search results.  
Did that read like a tumblr post to you? Good, because I think libraries should be about social justice (they are not neutral, never have been, nor should they be), and I try to hit that x-axis of practicing what I preach, otherwise known as praxis.
If you're interested in the topic, I encourage you to read the work of Dr. Safiya Noble, who teaches at UCLA, and note that library discovery systems are not free of bias. Not by a longshot.

The lesson plan is CC - BY - SA, which means you can use it, make it better, and then share it. Please do all these things. Feedback welcome, and thanks much to the editors above (buy the books!), and to the hundreds of students and handful of librarians and library staff who helped me refine the lesson.


Elsewhere on this site in me sneaking things through peer review, my ACRL 2015 paper: Faculty Perceptions of a Library: Paneling for Assessment

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Hey, it's me. I just got off the train.

<Extremely Remi Malek voice> Hey, it's been a while. Here's what's new.

My good friend and colleague Jessica Olin had been asking me to contribute an interview post to her blog, Letters to a Young Librarian. I was concerned that it was too similar to a "This is How I Work" meme post (in the Dawkinsian sense, not the cats who can or cannot haz cheezburgers sense) that I wrote in late 2014, also because Jessica asked me to. I got settled, I think, at the new job, and tried to be self-aware enough to focus on what I do now as opposed to how I worked in 2014 at a previous job. So in that vein, here's a similar post. Compare and contrast.

Building on those posts, I'm making a conscious effort to do a few things differently at this job, with varying degrees of success.
  • Not eating at my desk: I know there are and will be days when I'll have to hunker down and get stuff done at my desk. Eating anywhere other than there is good. It gets me out of the library. It puts me in contact with other people I work with, and with people who either use or may use the library. 
  • Leaving the library more often: even if it's just to crash an event and get free food, and for the reasons mentioned above. 
  • Much more outreach: I'm just a boy, leaning into my discomfort, with talking to people about the library. 
  • Going for more walks: easier when your workplace has paths and trails that look like this 
Sour oranges. I may pick a couple for masitas de puerco.

Not sure if that's a Little Yellow or Sleepy Orange butterfly.

Earlier in the year, Dr. Sarah Clark and I discussed critical librarianship, or "critlib," on Steve Thomas' podcast, Circulating Ideas. I abhor the sound of my voice, but maybe you don't. She wrote about it, too.

Topics included diversity versus inclusion, information literacy, and cataloging critically, among other things.

Source


Coming up, more blogging! Really. Because I have a book chapter to plug. And maybe I'll expound upon those bullet points.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Computers in Libraries 2016: The BeerBrarian Map

Since I live in DC, I thought an insider's perspective might be useful for the upcoming Computers in Libraries 2016 conference, which meets at the Hilton just north of Dupont Circle from Tuesday, March 8th, to Thursday, March 10th.

I'm attending on Tuesday, focusing on sessions about recent developments in discovery platforms and integrated library systems (ILS). Come say hi.

A brief word about the guide:
With a few exceptions, anything posted below have been vetted by me. These are places I frequent, or at least have been in. Not mentioned is that west of the conference there are many embassies, which would be a nice walk during breaks, or after the sessions have ended for the day.

The Washington Post's Going Out Guide is a bit unwieldy and probably needs to be updated, but remains useful.

I write for DCBeer.com on the side. Here's their guide to beer in the area, which also needs some updates.

Though it's a bit of a hike for lunch, 14th St NW has blown up in terms of dining and bars; there's something for everyone at multiple price points that would be worth the walk for dinner.

If you're familiar with Dupont Circle and think I missed anything, please let me know.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Music and Beer, Beer and Music in 2015

My new job makes it harder to listen to music (note: do not interpret this as a complaint, yet), so we're going to do things a bit differently this year. Rather than ranking, here are twenty albums I liked in 2015, and continue to like, in alphabetical order by artist. Not interested in music? Beer here.



A few trends, if one can call it that:

Two Australian artists, Courtney Barnett and Royal Headache.
Heterodox black metal, or if you want to be snide about it, "hipster metal." The orthodoxy around genres sure was fun to argue about in the 90s. Now I reap the musical benefits of bands that sit slightly outside a scene.

Albums

Alabama Shakes - Sound & Color: Not sure I’d ever find myself in the position of praising a soul revival group for their use of negative space and minimalism in arrangements, but here we are.

Algiers - s/t: An incendiary, politically and otherwise, mix of post-punk, and no-wave. Picture James Baldwin fronting early TV on the Radio with Liquid Liquid and ESG producing and you're close.

Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Sit: Wry, ramshackle alt-country reminiscent of both Uncle Tupelo and Pavement. One of the smartest lyricists around.

Cheatahs - Mythologies: These year-end lists usually contain a nu-gaze group, so here you go. (In all seriousness their first album sounded like a 90s tribute and they’ve done a good job breaking out of that mould here, incorporating post-punk rhythms, synths, and nifty production tricks.)

Beach House - Depression Cherry: Some subtle tweaks to their formula (louder guitars, organ loops, and even EDM) result in their best album yet. Throw a second 2015 release, Thank Your Lucky Stars, too.

Bjork - Vulnicura: Arca’s not my cup of tea, but the interplay between his beats and the strings are often challenging, and lyrically this is as real as Bjork’s gotten. It’s nice to have her back. Her best since Vespertine.

Chvrches - Open Every Eye: At times harsher, more industrial, and angular than their first. Closer to Depeche Mode. As it should be.

Dead to a Dying World - Litany: At their most beautiful they sound like a Godspeed You! Black Emperor 33 1/3rd LP being played at 45.

Deafheaven - New Bermuda: A bit more black metal, especially in the drumming, this time out, and none the worse for wear.

Holly Herndon - Platform: Out of chaos, order.

Jeffrey Lewis and Los Bolts - Manhattan: A man with a voice that can be described as “a more nasal Weird Al” does a Jim Carroll Band/Jonathan Richman thing, which reminds me of all that New York has lost.

Myrkur - M: I like the one that opens with haunting, ethereal vocals; Nordic folk instruments; and piano followed by abnormally well-produced, punishing black metal.

Obsequiae - Aria of Vernal Tombs: Putting the “folk” in folk metal.

Panda Bear - Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper: An oddly funky psych-pop record, co-produced by a member of Spacemen 3, that still feels grounded, rooted, and homey.

Pinkish Black - Bottom of the Morning: Dungeon synths, metal, krautrock, and that drumming.

Royal Headache - High: The best album to sing along to this year.

Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell: Another quiet gem. His most personal album, and maybe his best.

Tall Tales and the Silver Lining - Tightropes: Hook-heavy west coast 70s AM radio goodness.

Viet Cong - s/t: “March of Progress” alone is worth the price of admission.

Waxahatchee - Ivy Tripp: Indie rock has taken a beating lately, but Waxahatchee’s last two albums have carried the torch.

Cheers: The triumphant returns of Belle and Sebastian, Bjork, Cannibal Ox, Faith No More, Sleater-Kinney, and The Sonics. Whatever is going on with Ryan Adams and Taylor Swift.

Jeers: I just can’t with a lot of hip hop these days. Sad. So it goes with getting older? The Swift-Adams thinkpieces.




Songs (in no particular order)

March of Progress - Viet Cong
The Blacker the Berry - Kendrick Lamar
Ondine - Lower Dens
Blank Space - Taylor Swift
Should Have Known Better - Sufjan Stevens
Energy - Drake
Need You - Royal Headache
24 Frames - Jason Isbell
Ex’s & Oh’s - Ellie King
Something to Believe In - Tall Tales and the Silver Lining
Signs to Lorelei - Cheatahs




Beer (Either new to the market or a new brewery release in 2015, in no particular order)

The locals:

Home - Ocelot (IPA): An admitted homage to Alpine's famed Nelson rye pale ale, see below, with slightly more cereal and grain in the body.
Nanticoke Nectar - Real Ale Revival (IPA): This brewery is crushing it. Big things. One thing a beer professional can do is introduce people to new things and champion them. Jace Gonnerman did that with RAR and Fairwinds, see below.
Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne - Right Proper (Berliner Weisse): Not too sour that I can't drink three of them. Floral, bone dry, and made within walking distance of my house.
Raspberry Dissonance - 3 Stars (Berliner Weisse): Not sure I can drink three of them, but I can drink two.
Black Twig - Albemarle Ciderworks: Their single-apple varietal ciders continue to impress.
Siren’s Lure - Fairwinds (Saison): Always nice when a brewery opens and immediately medals at the Great American Beer Festival.
Now in cans: Union Old Pro Gose, Port City Optimal Wit, 3 Stars Ghost White IPA.

National:

Oktoberfest - Sierra Nevada-Brauhaus Riegel: Basically liquid perfection.
Left of the Dial - Notch (Session IPA)
Down to Earth - 21st Amendment (Session IPA): These session IPAs are the two best examples of hop-bursting I've encountered so far, moving this style away from what I'd ordinarily call a "bitter" to a category of its own.
Coffee Cinnamon Barrel-Aged Abominable - Fremont (Imperial Stout): This beer was so good that it literally silenced the room at a tasting.
Deux Rouges - Yazoo (Sour/wild ale): My favorite sour from SAVOR, no small feat.
Vinosynth White - Upland (Sour/wild ale): My second favorite, sorry Allagash.

New in the market:

Anything from Tired Hands: Greg Engert's persistence pays off yet again, as NRG bars and restaurants carry this Pennsylvania brewery. Look for more of this kind of arrangement in 2016.
Anything hoppy from Alpine: Not paying the six-pack prices, but it's nice to have these guys on tap.
Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin (IPA): My official beer of the summer.
Avery Liliko'i Kepolo (witbier): White Rascal was already my go-to Belgian in a can. Tropical fruit flavors and tartness take it up a notch.
Firestone Walker Pivo Pils: Yet another stupid good beer from a stupid good brewery.
Boulevard Ginger Lemon Radler: Danner knows what's up.

Cheers!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Why Critical Librarianship? Or, the #whyicritlib Post

Many moons ago, when I was pursuing a PhD in political science, a professor I looked up to told me something that's stuck with me. Marxists, he said, don't often have the right answers, but they ask the right questions.

Gif via ina.fr and gifwave.com
So why am I a critical librarian?
  • Because it's important to ask "who benefits?" and I wish more of us in the library and information sciences would follow in the footsteps of Sanford BermanE.J. JoseyHope Olson, Rory Litwin, and others in asking these kinds of questions.
  • Because critical librarianship is, in large part, what you make it. It's one of the few places where I feel like I have a significant degree of agency in librarianship. I hear the critiques of the #critlib chats being an echo chamber, and while on some level I think that opinion is a valid one (this blog post might be evidence of that), if someone wants to propose a chat on a topic they think is under- or unexplored, they can and should do so. Last June I moderated a chat, attempting to critique whatever critlib is (movement, mindset, group, place,...) from the inside, and I suspect that with his questions above, this critique is something that Kevin would like to explore as well.
  • Because I'm not neutral, and neither are libraries. There are intended and unintended policies and consequences that do real harm that I think we can mitigate. But only if we ask "who benefits, how, and why?"
  • Because one of the highlights of my year, or any year, really, was being in a room with Jessica Critten, Donna Witek, Kevin Seeber, and Kenny Garcia, listening, talking, and learning. I've found fellow "critlibbers" to be friendly, kind, patient, smart, and caring, among other positive traits.
  • Because as a community, critical librarianship keeps me accountable to myself, my ideals, and challenges me to continue to listen and learn and refine, among other things. 
  • Because before I lurked in critlib chats, I was a critical political science student. A professor introduced me to the work of Michel Foucault, and that was as close to an "a ha!" moment as I'll have (I maybe even crossed a threshold, if you will). I got to spend a day with James Scott, one of my professional heroes. And then I got to apply critical theories from the social sciences and humanities to libraries, in theory, and in practice, thanks to people like Maria Accardi
  • Because this is my life homey you decide yours.


Why do I identify with these ideas?
  • Because I've never not been critical. I grew up in New York City in the 1980s. My parents told me not to walk on Amsterdam Avenue (also called Murderdam or Cracksterdam), to take Broadway instead, and I began to ask questions. I saw how people who weren't white were treated. By police, by teachers, by peers, by the law. That was the start. It took me a while to find the theoretical frameworks to help me process what I saw, but I'm glad I did. 
Why do I participate in these chats?
  • It's more often the case that I lurk, listening, liking tweets, saving things for later. I feel like I have a voice, however limited, in this profession, and I want to hear what others have to say. The last thing librarianship needs is another cis het white dude taking up space. That being said, thanks for reading, and thanks to Kevin for asking. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Academic Library Job Market is Broken

Here are some blind items from my interactions with academic libraries over the past few months. They don't paint a pretty picture of the hiring processes therein.
  • The university that schedules a phone interview, then, out of the blue, a second phone interview three weeks later with an entirely different search committee and no explanation.
    • That same university, when asked during the second phone interview, has no timeline to bring anyone in for an on-campus interview, a clear sign that they have no idea who or what they're looking for in the position.
  • The multiple instances in which the person you report to isn't part of the search committee.
  • On-campus interviews where the people you'd manage aren't part of the hiring process.
  • Places where you're told "the position is what you make it" even though there's a long, almost unicorn-like job description and a title that strongly suggests which area of academic librarianship the position falls into. Again, a clear sign that they have no idea what they're looking for in the position.
  • Places where more than a third of the students are non-white, but all the librarians are Nice White Ladies. 
  • Place that check your references and then ghost. 0_o 
  • Places that ask for a salary range and when supplied with one, with tons of wiggle room, might I add, feel the need to note that they're a non-profit. Passive aggressive much? 
  • Places that have lost a significant percentage of their staff, but those that remain are clinging to their silos rather than trying to reorganize, reward versatility, and become more agile and open. 
    • The counter: Places that awkwardly combine two or more positions into one to compensate for budget cuts. See that unicorn-like job description, above. 
  • Places where it's clear you'll be punished for wanting to publish, to share knowledge, whether that's peer reviewed, presented, or blogged.
    • "So, I see you publish," I was told, with a tone and body language that made it clear I shouldn't aspire to such things. 
    • "I've read your blog and twitter," remarked one hiring official, who did not and would not expand on that when I asked them what they thought of my online presence. 
    • "Why can't you stick to beer?" is something that I was told by someone in human resources at one institution. If I weren't a cis het white male, I'd send that into the LIS Microaggressions zine. 
Errata:
All directors, with no exceptions, think that if I, as an ex-director, interview for a librarian position, then I'm out to steal their job. Meanwhile, other library staff at these organizations can't fathom why I'd give up a directorship, not understanding how fraught middle management in academic libraries can be, often feeling trapped between library staff and academic administration, which can sometimes be at cross-purposes. Why is it not okay to be a librarian, a part of a team? We don't all have to aspire to management, even those of us in management. 
A sign you're in a good place: when someone eats a fruit cup with both breakfast and lunch and not once touches the honeydew. Honeydew is a garbage melon.  
The performance of whiteness is an important barrier to diversity in library and information science. I was aware of this before job hunting, but nowhere is this more true than when you're on the market. "Small talk" is crucial to determining whether or not one "fits" in an organization. I mentioned farmers markets, Cub Scouts, homebrewing, and many other topics, some consciously, some not, to show employers that I'm "like" them. No doubt it helps that I look like them, too. If you're looking for a job in libraries, I encourage you to read Angela Galvan's "Soliciting Performance, Hiding Bias: Whiteness and Librarianship," and April Hathcock's "White Librarianship in Blackface: Diversity Initiatives in LIS," both published in In the Library With the Lead Pipe
Do you have horror stories you'd like to share? If you're able to, I'm here for that.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Beerbrarian Moves On

Over the course of eight years, I held three positions at my former place of work (MFPOW). For more than half that time, I served as Director of Library Services. I started as a paraprofessional, with "Specialist" in the title, got an MLIS on the job, and worked my way up. I'm grateful to them for the opportunities and growth, and I hope they're as proud of what we were able to accomplish as I am. No doubt they took a risk in making me a director. Working with other library and university staff, faculty, and academic administration, we were able to
  • modernize the library, including adding discovery services and a link resolver.
  • promote the use of open educational resources (OERs) to the point where every introductory science course uses them, saving our students a lot of money.
  • hire, train, promote, and maintain a diverse library staff 
  • break down silos by cross-training all library staff on both public and technical services, with robust documentation.
  • create a culture of experimentation, where staff aren't afraid to fail and learn from it.
But all those things cost a lot. They cost political capital. They cost emotional labor. And after those eight years, I got the sense that there wasn't much more I could do except maintain. I got the sense I wasn't wanted anymore, but I tried to stick it out. I was lonely as a middle manager, operating between university administration and library staff, and balancing those two often-competing roles was tough. I wasn't happy. I let it get to me. To their credit, the powers that be realized this. The timing wasn't perfect, but hey, it rarely is. I should have started my job hunt earlier, and I shouldn't have taken MFPOW for granted-- if you're thinking about going on the job market in "six months," start now! Though we occasionally disagreed on strategy and tactics, the mission of my former place of work remains a worthy one, and I wish them the best of luck. It's telling that the staff who remain, including the current university librarian, are people I hired and trained. It's a nice legacy to have. Onward. 

I came to librarianship as a failed academic, having dropped out of a political science PhD program. This new job gives me a chance to put that other Masters to good use (I applied for pretty much every Political Science Librarian position on the east coast, but never got past phone or Skype interviews--more on this later), and is right in my wheelhouse in terms of what my dissertation was to be: an examination of the role, or lack thereof, the globalization of the English language plays in state language policies, if you're wondering. I'll also get to work with area studies materials and other resources from my poli sci days.

In addition, I hope to bolster my skill-set. Some front-end web development, often involving integrated library systems (ILS) and learning/content management systems (the LMS is the scene of one of my better failure stories); more project management; more committee work; and maybe more instructional design. Also, a chance to turn a weakness, marketing and outreach, into a strength; and an opportunity to explore what critical librarianship looks like in a special library, as this position is in the academic wing of a federal library.

That being said, it's not an academic library, at least not in the traditional sense. I want to find out what I like more: librarianship or higher education. I want to make sure I'm not in the former as a way to stick around the latter.

I wasn't the job I left. I am not the job I just accepted. We are not our jobs. Not the ones we left. Not the ones we want to take. You are not your job.

Let's see where the day takes us.