26 May, 2008

Stupidity or some sort of Irony I am too supid to get?

Bill Knott is an American Poet with a blog,
no news there until he published a rather anti-librarian rant (did someone delete his books from their collection?)
What does he think of us?
"an ugly bunch of pompous bureaucrats and jumped-up warehouse stockclerks"
is that so? Anything else you'd like to add?
"That librarians like Nazis should cloak their crazed extermination of books with deceptively innocuous phraseology should be no surprise once you realize that librarians are Nazis.
Everybody knows librarians are sexually repressed; that is a truism, a generally accepted fact—
And indeed for most librarians the only erotic release possible occurs when they commit the perverted act of deacquisition, when they destroy the products of creative minds.
The librarian and the writer are natural enemies, cobra and mongoose."
Good lord, the man is completely barmy.
"...but I would bet anything that many librarians often sneak some of these deposed books into the toilet and orgiastically rip them apart. I bet they snicker and wink at each other when they emerge tugging straight their skirts and trousers."

"You can question them about their discard policies, but don't delude yourself they'll tell you the truth: remember they're public employees, they're like members of your legislature, malfeasants who hide their evil behind walls of bureaucratise and lies."

Am I missing something here, because this reads like the words of someone who believes what he is saying?

I decided to post a reply on his site

Is that really a word?
I just say deleted
Thrown out

I've never come across a padlocked dumpster in a library (unless we're disposing of old patron record cards and we are waiting for them to be sent to the industrial shredder, but it’s all on computer these days so that is unlikely). In fact I’ve indulge in my fair share of dumpster diving for books. Although…
I’ve always worked or libraries where the old, infirm and unloved books were sold off for a few cents each to anyone who felt they were worth rescuing. So those left in the dumpster were really the unloved (1970s accounting textbooks, DOS handbooks, Goosebumps books with cracked dry glue and loose pages…)

One trouble with your post is, no one knows which librarians you are talking about (we are legion).
Your local free public library keeps different things and for different reasons to an academic library. Likewise a national library has another set of ideals altogether and government department libraries, law libraries, research libraries… (the list goes on). Is each one of these librarians equally culpable in this NAZI orgy (sexually repressed) of book destruction?
How do you judge the reference librarian who stands at their desk answering questions
The cataloguer in the basement whose carefully crafted MARC allows us to find what we desire
The Children’s librarian whose storytimes make the kids crawl around the shelves roaring like lions
These librarians whose role is unrelated to the difficult task of the second half of the Collection Development Policy?
Are they too repressive,
brown shirts

And what of poets,
sad old men in food stained undershirts
sitting alone in their apartments
their unwashed clothes
the smell of old urine
surrounded by the piles of their self published
Long dead is the romantic
opium eater, soldier poet
whose youth and vigour brought him women
and respect
that is a truism
a generally accepted fact

(isn’t it?)

The Effing Librarian has blogged a reply to this too.

25 May, 2008

Yeah I did a quiz - but I like this result

Which Shakespeare Play Am I?
Midsummer Night's Dream -
11% Tragic, 55% Comic,
32% Romantic, 38% Historic
You are A Midsummer Night's Dream. Blending elements of comedy and romance, A Midsummer Night's Dream tells the story of mischievous fairies who conspire to make everyone fall in love with everyone else, often with disastrous, yet humorous consequences. You are most likely haphazard in love, but good natured and friendly. While you may also have a mischievous side to you, it is most likely all in good fun. We have no doubt that you are an outgoing person, who may also be a bit of a klutz. And while you may not always get it right, you always try to do the right thing. We applaud you!

The Which Shakespeare Play Are You? Test

22 May, 2008

Everything New is Old Again

Dear Friends…
Here I sit at my new desk half way through my first week on the new job. And what have I learned, what do I think, should I cut and run… ?
Well, last things first, there shall be no cutting nor running. I know it is very early in the job, but I am very happy with the place. Have I mentioned which place? Should I try and keep quiet about where I am in case I want to say horrible things about people later? Probably no point as all you’d have to do is visit my facebook page to discover that I am working for Tabor Adelaide.
Tabor Adelaide? I hear many of you ask. Well, it is a small non-denominational Christian tertiary institute offering courses from VET level right up to Doctorates. It started life as a Pentecostal Bible College but somehow (I don’t know how yet) morphed so now, while it still offers theology it also does counseling, performing arts, teaching, nursing starts next year and I’m sure there is more I can’t remember yet.
But onto the library…
It is too small, but that is the cry of librarians everywhere. Luckily here the fact that the library needs bigger digs is an accepted fact and the Dean of the College mentioned some of his ideas to me on my first day. So it looks like that is a fight I don’t have to have. The staff are fantastic (although there are some casuals I am yet to meet). I am working for people with a real passion for the library and for the college as a whole.
So, what am I actually going to do then being as I obviously have it so good?
Well, there are lots of things I’ve been asking questions about. Finding out which odd things seem perfectly normal to longtime staff members and working out why we do things that way. Most of these revolve around the IT setup. Most of the systems in the library (and those is student services) don’t talk to each other, so there is a lot (and I mean a lot) of entering and re-entering the same information. Some of it we may just have to live with for now, but some of it I think I should be able to work out. So I am putting that high up on my list.

How can you help?
Well it’s kind of you to ask, do you know anyone who uses the e-library from Functional Solutions? Because before I start ringing them and complaining about what their system doesn’t do, I’d like to find out whether it is the system or whether it is the way we’re doing it.
All in all, your ADHD Librarian is a happy Library Manager.

12 May, 2008

Dinner and a few drinks with SALIN

I’m settling into the SA library scene. I say that, but I may be exaggerating a little all I have really done is to attend my first SALIN get together. A nice enough get together with a nice group of librarians. I did find out that one of the people there is going to be a speaker at the ALIA conference in September (and I even remembered her abstract) However someone did let slip that she hadn’t finished the paper (which is due soon). As you can imagine I was subtle in my approach to her on the subject, um OK perhaps I wasn’t but I had fun casually mentioning I was a member of the committee and I was waiting for her paper.

I also got the chance to talk to a couple of people who hadn’t employed me. I did get some congratulations on the job I now have, included in the conversation was an opinion that I was better suited for a management role. I took this as a dreadful insult at first, then I remembered the person saying this was herself a manager and as such she probably meant the word manager in its non-insulting way (I know it is an archaic use of the term).

I also got the chance to put forward my hypothesis that the resume/interview system in Australian government is broken. And no, this wasn’t a dig at people not employing me. In fact the point I made was that I do well in interview situations, but that doesn’t prove I will be better at the job than someone who gets so nervous in an interview that they loose the ability to speak. Sure, I might be the better person to be your front of house or the do the introductions for speakers at your big library event, but does it make me the best cataloguer.

It was interesting that a couple of people agreed that there was some problem in this area but felt that in the Adelaide library world this was lessened somewhat by the library world being a bit incestuous. Therefore (unless you are me, the new boy in town) people know your reputation and know a bit about what you can do and how well you can do it. I like this idea, but it does fly in the face of the playbook which tells us we are only allowed to judge people based on what they tell us in the interview. That is to say, if in an interview for a cataloguing roll and I forget to mention I can use Libraries Australia then officially no one should be taking into account that they know I can.

There was also a spinoff conversation in which a coupe of stories were recounted of people who had been given glowing references by their employers because it is an easier way to get rid of someone than to go through the process to fire someone. What does that mean for the interview process? I have no idea, other than the fact that it is more evidence that the system is flawed.

02 May, 2008

It's a gig for me, it's professional development for you

Yes gentle reader,
in September of this year the Australian Library and Information Association will be holding a conference in Alice Springs. A wonderful little city all on its own in the middle of the emptyness that is Australia, so if you're wondering what to do for your professional development this year you should add this to your diary.

Still, it seems like a long way away, doesn’t it. I mean Australia probably seems remote to many of you and Alice Springs seems remote even to most Australians. Yet there are some very good reasons to come along. Most notably amongst those is that your ADHD Librarian will be the MC throughout the conference. Yes, my brand of irreverence for our profession will be being broadcast from the roving mike unedited and unapologetic. I have no idea what I will be saying, but in amongst the introductions, directions and general housekeeping messages I plan on a decent sideline of sarcasm, social satire, stream of consciousness monologuing and possibly ad lib interviews with random people walking the halls.

Other reasons to visit include a very nice program of speakers, interesting library tours, a fantastic social program and a wonderful setting. Speaking of which, the conference is the week before the Henley on Todd Regatta so that is one reason to extend your visit to include a holiday or you could take a nice walk to see Uluru (it’s only 500km from the venue) well then perhaps a bus trip?

Whatever reason you need to give your manager to convince them you should be there, let me know and I’ll tell them we’re doing it. Just make sure you come along.

Who ever thought Librarians weren't cool?

My librarian readers no doubt already know Andrew Finegan of Librarian Idol fame. I can however say “I knew him before he was famous” or words to that effect. So while I wouldn’t usually be spruiking the competition (library based comedians aren’t exactly highly called for) none the less I loved this piece in The Age about his Melbourne shows.

Sure it is ostensibly about his cabaret style performance, but as someone who has recently moved out of the Public Library system (but still feels passionately about its raison d'etra) his quotes really ring true and it is very nice to know that Andrew has managed to get these thoughts to a wider audience.

There's a big difference between academia and the real world. In theory, you're the repository of all this important professional knowledge, and a major aspect of librarianship is information literacy. Then you get into a library and realise that people just want to argue about their fines and internet access.

Also, libraries attract a lot of people who can't read. It's actually a credit to public libraries that even the homeless and loonies feel comfortable. They aren't moved on but it makes you question your existence sometimes.

Lets see if my move away from public libraries puts me in contact with a few more patrons who want more than bandwidth and a warm place to spend the day. And for those of you still in the public system, keep up the good fight.

01 May, 2008

Why with all of the sexing?

This little piece has just popped into my email (for the third or fourth time courtesy of my being subscribed to multiple ALIA email lists).
Congratulations to Suzanne Parker, from the University of Queensland, for providing the ALIA Information Literacy Forum with its new name – ALIA PATHWAYS!

Now I don’t know Suzanne (unless we met at a conference in which case I apologise, terrible with names but I’m sure I’d recall your face if we met again. I blame the ADHD – it’s easier than doing something about it)
Anyway, I don’t know Suzanne but I’m sure it’s not her fault there was a competition. Nor would it be her fault she won. So I'm trying to say this post isn't about her at all but I'm using this as an example of ‘sexing up’ something that doesn’t need the sexing. Which seems to keep happening in library land, is no one is happy to be a librarian anymore?

ALIA Information Literacy Forum is a perfect name. I read it and I know what it is. It is an information literacy forum. And if I am associated with the library world then chances are I know what ALIA is too, but even if I don’t there is enough information in the name for me to make sense of the group and to make educated guesses at some of what it does.
ALIA Pathways however is a complete mystery to me, in fact if you were to ask me in six months what ALIA Pathways did. Chances are that despite my having written this post I will be unable to tell you.

Why must we try and make everything seem so much more exciting than it is. Do we need to fool people into coming along to find out about these new ‘pathways’ and if we do aren’t they going to be disappointed when they find out it is just information literacy.
Meanwhile those with an interest in information literacy are staying at home because they don’t care about pathways. They just keep checking the calendar and wondering when ALIA is going to do something about information literacy.

That said, if you are interested in Information Literacy they are looking for new committee members, so if you don't mind having to explain Pathways in every job interview you get from here on in you might like to visit their website for some details.

Past Job Hunting

On previous occasions I have tried different methods to get jobs, with (for the most part) a lot of success. As an unqualified library assistant, ALT or stackie I had a great run. For a while I was sitting at close to a 100% success record of being offered every job I made interview for.
So, how did I manage this? Well I was a young man in a field where there weren’t a lot of young me. I think that helped me stand out in the minds of the panels, plus I manage to be reasonably relaxed and conversational in an interview situation (I have recently learned this is called assuming rapport – but I knew how to do it before I knew there was a name for it).
More than that I came across as a bright person, with age the ‘bright young thing’ has faded because the older you get the more is expected of you, but especially as a young man this helped. That was phase one of the career, which saw me move from temping for the State Library of NSW to a contract role with the University of Western Sydney Library and then into permanent work for Penrith City Council.

Job hunting phase two happened when it was getting time for me to move on from Penrith. They had been fantastic about supporting my study, but the staff there were all settled in their jobs and no one was going to retire to give me a librarian's role. So with about six months to go before I got my ALIA seal of Librarianness ™ I started leveraging my new found intellectual capital and signed up with an agency. Agency job hunting really does make so much of the process easier, I found myself in interviews for jobs I had no business being interviewed for. The trouble there is that this can soon lead to a feeling of complete disenchantment, because as someone completely unsuited to the role I was not going to get the job. My success rate during this period slumped to 0%. Therefore after my graduation I started two things, I started writing my own resumes again and I started casting a wider net. I had interviews in Dubbo and Orange, I drove from Western Sydney to Tamworth and back in a day just for a half hour interview and I had a phone interview for a Job in Alice Springs. Well, long term readers will know that the Alice job was a go and indeed most of this blog so far has been about that job. I was also successful in Dubbo but only after their first choice ‘didn’t work out’ by which time I was en route to Central Australia and the best five years a Newgrad Librarian could ask for. Librarians in Orange and in Tamworth weep for your lack of foresight!

Phase the third has been an interesting one, in order to calm readers of a nervous disposition, let me be clear. I have found my new job and am poised to begin. This phase however has been a strange one. I have had several interviews and have been given positive feedback even from the ones I didn’t get (no silver medals in the jobs race). But what has taken me aback more than anything else is the jobs I haven’t made interview for. It seems a most unsatisfactory system when I can apply for practically identical jobs in two similar sized organisations and be interviewed for one but not another. Likewise I have made interview for positions paying $20,000 a year more than jobs I haven’t made interview for. The process I can say (having been on both sides) is broken and needs more than a facelift if we are going to find the best people for our libraries.

The other interesting part of phase three as opposed to phase two is the differing cities. In Sydney I knew people and while I wasn’t exactly the name on everyone’s lips the people I was talking to knew the same people I did. An interview which started with “so you work with Peter Goodfellow” was always going to go well. They already had a high opinion of me based on who I worked with. Plus I knew people from a couple of public library networking groups. Sure this was the days before the ALIA newgrads group (or so I believe, certainly I didn’t know of it if it did exist) but it was a small enough pool of people that you felt some sort of familiarity. Adelaide has been a different matter, I haven’t been spruiking myself as the ADHD Librarian but I have been able to drop into resumes and interviews that I am on the committee for the ALIA Biennial. Plus I’m sure it doesn’t hurt to mention I have presented a couple of conference papers.
Correction, actually it can hurt. I was turned down for one job because (if I can remember the wording) I was going to be bored with it and find myself something better in a fortnight. So I should warn people it is possible to oversell yourself sometimes.
Perhaps that is the reason I didn’t get interviews for some of the positions I thought I was a shoe in for?

35 essentials and desirables in one job description

OK, we're on to my experiences now. So this one is a good starting point as I've already alluded to the fact that I had to write War and Peace for one job application. In fact there were two jobs at this organisation, luckily for me they were word for word identical (despite the fact that the jobs weren't). This is clinically insane and is no way to run a business. Can you imagine having to read ten or twenty, twenty page resumes in order to work out which five people you'll interview?
Plus, how many people will decide they aren't going to waste their time. Perhaps they'll focus on the other jobs advertised that week.

So, why do they think that this is a good idea? I guess you’d need to talk to their HR department, I could see their hands all over this job description in the (multiple) OH&S style questions but there was more stupidity than that.
There were questions which were repeats, so while in skills you might have “ability to read” then under the heading experience you get “experience with the written word” and a little later on in Job Specific Skills you get “ability to read stories to kiddies”
I think I’m making the point here, that I found this a stupid way of finding out about job applicants. I had to repeat myself in several places, trying to reword things so it wasn’t word for word what I’d written in an identical (but slightly differently worded) question.

As a job seeker I’d say that this is clinically insane and points out to me that this is the sort of organisation which is horribly rule bound and whose bureaucracy has gone mad. Now, I was a new boy in town just moved from interstate. As such I was applying for everything and as I had already resigned from my old job I had lots of time to apply for jobs. However, this sort of application process might well put off people who are just looking for a change or a move up the career ladder. And in some cases these people may be the best applicants, not in this case because I was the best applicant in this case obviously (although in this case they didn’t realise it).

How many essential and desirable points do I think should be in a job description? Ten would be too many, but if you have to put in a couple of standard OH&S questions then that's only 8 left for job specific ones. But make sure they are specific to the job and that there is no overlap between the questions, that's just a waste of everyone's time.

Top Ten Questions To Ask Every New Employee.

This is a straight off ripoff from Library Garden. I bookmarked this post earlier in the year and thought I'd point it out to you as it fits in with my current theme. Visit the original post for the full story.
As the new manager of a library I will be asking myself these questions during my first week in the new job.
  1. What was your first impression when you walked into the library?
  2. What are your impressions of the aesthetic environment inside the building?
  3. What are your impressions of the aesthetic environment outside the building?
  4. What are we doing that strikes you as wasteful?
  5. What services are you surprised to learn that we are offering?
  6. What services are you surprised to learn that we are NOT offering?
  7. Are there any policies that you don't understand the rationale for?
  8. What are your impressions of our website?
  9. What was your experience like when you called the library?
  10. What are your impressions of our customer service orientation?
  11. How friendly did the staff seem when you first walked in the door?
  12. What are we doing that strikes you as straight-up bat shit crazy?