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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Should you get an MLIS degree.

tl;dr NO

Wow, it's been a really long time since I have posted something.  Since my last post my jadedness and disenchantment with the public library and librarianship peaked.  Budget cut after budget cut, with no hope in sight.  Maybe I should have kept up my online ranting sessions for my own sanity.  Either way, here I am typing away.

Every week or so, there's a post on /r/Libraries asking if the OP should get an MLIS degree.  The characteristics of most thread starters are unshockingly similar:

- young
- about to graduate from college/just graduated
- has no idea what to do
- degree in History/English
- has never worked in a library before
- loves to read books
- library-delusional: thinks it would be cool to be paid to read all day
- already made up their mind about getting an MLIS, but just wanted affirmation from online strangers

9 times out of 10, I do not think that they should waste their time on an MLIS.  Let me count the ways:

- "The greying of the profession" is complete crap
- if the library actually chooses to fill any open full-time positions there are two things that usually happen now: turns into 1, maybe 2, part time positions and/or make the positions paraprofessional so ultimately getting an MLIS is moot
- if your only experience in the library world is as a patron, you have no idea what it's like behind the reference desk
- the majority of library jobs lies in the public library field, and they are struggling to stay afloat


I will upvote every person who cautions the OP to reconsider and downvote those that openly and enthusiastically encourage people to obtain an MLIS.  I find it completely reckless and moronic to do the latter.  Usually the encouragers give the following reasons:

- they had a full-time library job lined up before they graduated
- they weren't regionally restricted, so they took a job across the country
- they love books too!
- they used their network connections they made by being members to every god-forsaken library-related association out there
-you can totally use your MLIS degree in other places outside of a library


These people are the 1%, the exceptions to the rule.  For every one of these boasters, there are hundreds of those who are quietly disgruntled and underemployed.  Sure, take a job in the middle of no where, with such an overabundance of MLIS job-seekers, there's a reason why those library positions are open.  Honestly, I've always thought the idea of working in a library just because someone loves books as utterly ridiculous --- you do know that you'll have to weed the collection right?  I hate when people say that joining ALA/SLA/PLA/your state library association is the key to finding that dream job.  If the return on investment for this was truly as good as these people make it out to be, EVERYONE would be a member of these groups and employed.  Again, this is the vocal 1%. 

Do you know why so many people with MLIS don't work in a library setting --- BECAUSE THEY COULDN'T FIND A LIBRARY JOB.  People that say that their MLIS is helpful and worth it in non-library settings is in the biggest state of denial ever.  As it currently stands, and maybe always has in the library world, you cannot take someone with just an MLIS and no library experience and throw them behind the reference desk and think they'll do just fine.  What makes you think an MLIS can better prepare you for a non-library job if it can't even properly prepare you for a library one??

The only rare times I would say investing in an MLIS is worth it, is if your employee is paying for it and/or you already are in the library and you're in a position for a promotional opportunity for getting the degree.  Other than that, save your money and go for a paraprofessional positions, it's the exact same work minus the crippling tuition debt!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Patrons that make you say, 'Awwww....'

A semi-regular elderly patron came up to me at the desk last week and asked if I could help him on the internet computers.  I told him that I would be glad to help him out again.  When we got to a computer he pulled out a letter mailed from his bank and he had written instructions on the outside of the envelope.  He wanted to print up his last year's credit card statement but he never set up an online account.

He told me that he would try it himself but he had eye surgery and could not see the screen.  So long story short, he had to call his credit card and verify who he was and they set up a temporary password for his first log in and account creation.  I helped him set up his account, including all of the security questions and man, does Bank of America require a lot of security measurements.  When it came to setting up a password, he looked at me for suggestions.  It's nice to see that people trust librarians, not that there shouldn't be any reason NOT to.  It's not like there's a secret black market ring run by public librarians who steal trusting patrons'... right??

After it was all said and done, he tried to sneak me a $5 bill at the info desk on his way out.  I had to decline it numerous times, telling him that it was no problem, that I was doing my job, that's what we're here for...etc.  He then asked if he could walk over to McDonald's and buy me lunch, it was one of the nice patron interactions that makes you shrug off the really bad ones.

It isn't all doom and gloom as I make it out to be, but I would still advise against people pursuing an MLIS.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

My Beef with the Bibliotech "Library"...

My problem with Bibliotech, "The nation's first bookless library," is quite simply two-fold.  The tagline is a complete misnomer.

It isn't completely "bookless," but it sounds "cooler" and "hipper" to say that it's the first [insert adjective] library in the nation.  It does have books, just not in paper format, or do we not count e-books as books anymore?  Instead of paper and pulp, the words are in 0's and 1's.  "Bookless" makes it sound edgy, like it's really a more pioneering endeavor.  A library with no books means we put the cool back in the library.  What can be more attention-grabbing than a headline with a contradiction.

While it may be funded from the library portion of the budget, let's keep it real, it is a tech-lab.  Other libraries already have tech-labs; some with video equipment and some with maker-bots.  I doubt that they make their staff wear polo uniforms.  They wanted to recreate an Apple store, so they did.  Do you know the last thing I think of when I walk by an Apple store, the library.  Why do so many libraries want to be an Apple store??  Again with the wanting to appear hip and relevant, how about you just focus on being a library.  I must admit, this rant might be influenced by my intense dislike of Apple in general.

If this is the future of public libraries than this is just sad because if I wanted to wear matching polo's to work, I would work for an electronic store and have a job title with "Geek" or the ego-inflating "Genius" in it.  To all you public libraries that what to one-up Bibliotech to get some media attention, here's the next future evolution of the public library.  Build a room with tables, chairs, electrical outlets (throw in some USB charging ports to let the public know that you're really with it), and wi-fi.  That's all you'll need and you can bill yourself as the first ever 'bookless, staff-free library.'

We could argue the semantics of the word "library" for days on end and we could argue the merits of it evolving with constantly changing technology and patron needs.  It reminds me of one MLIS class where the professor started the lecture by posing the question, "What is information?  Is [insert noun] information?"  This led to the majority of class going back and forth about what they thought information was while the professor just sat behind the desk without saying a word and watched us argue.  I could only assume that the professor thought that after an hour and a half  spent arguing would lead us to walk out of the room reaching the zenith of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: Self-actualization.  But it only left me frustrated because I walked out realizing I just wasted my time and gas driving to campus to listen to my classmates argue for over an hour without any input or guidance from the professor.  Wow, I really went off on a tangent there.



TL;DR: Bibliotech is not bookless: the books are digital, Bibliotech is not a library: it's a tech-lab.  This is NOT the future of public libraries.  I don't want to wear polo uniforms to the library, although it would lead to less ironing...

::last minute edit::
I don't have anything against libraries creating and offering tech labs or maker spaces or creator crevices, whatever.  I do not like the misinformation that this is the future of the public library, that the next evolutionary step in public libraries is simply a room filled with just computers is depressing and this is coming from a self-proclaimed non-reader.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Creepy Book Covers: Hansel and Gretel


One look at their expressionless faces and dead eyes and they'll steal your soul as a sacrifice for their great overlord.

I don't remember the Little Golden Book series being so damn creepy when I was growing up.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"I Sneezed into a Library Book"...


Well, this year's much hyped snowpacalypse was a letdown.  Only half a foot fell around this way, it was good enough for a Monday paid day off though.  It kind of surprised me when I came in to work on Tuesday to find out that only one circ person came in for the whole day.

With only myself and the branch manager closing, I was shunned to the circ desk.  It really isn't a big deal to me, but I know several librarians who absolutely detest working the circ desk.  In this day and age of "doing more with less" in the library, you just gotta roll up the sleeves on your cardigan and suck it up. 

Checking books in and out reminded me of how disgusting library books can get.  I found myself reaching for the Purell every time I wasn't touching books or money from fines.  I found this gem under the circ desk.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

(Potential) Snowpacalypse 2014...

Snow has yet to touch the ground, but tomorrow is already a paid snow day, wwwwwooooooootttt!

I decided to make a last minute grocery and gas station run tonight.  I felt guilty for the recent influx of pizza invading my diet (damn you Papa John's and Pizza Hut deals), so I bought some bagged salad, grapes (seems like the good boxes of clementines were already picked over, also damn you Halo commercials), stereotypical storm-prep milk (there was only 1 non-fat organic carton left), and some Cup-o-Noodles. 

I really enjoy shopping right before a storm, most of the shelves are barren as people frantically scramble to buy what they think they'll need.  I like to pretend that I'm in a pre-post-apocalyptic scenario, like right before the zombie virus hits the region.  During the last snowpacalypse, it lasted for a week or so and grocery store shelves were the emptiest I've ever seen before.  You really had to just buy what was available and make do.  After numerous failed visits to grocery stores in an ever-expanding radius, I was finally able to score some bread and juice from a convenience store.

I still have some leftover gas for the snow-blower from the last snowstorm so I should be good to go.  All I ask is that the electricity stay on so I can continue my binge Netflix re-watching of Top Gear (BBC version of course).

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Public Librarianship: "It's not what you do, but how you do it"

Last week I helped an elderly patron place a book on hold and find a book on the shelves.  Typical patron interaction which I conducted in my usual means, but her reaction made it seem different.  After I checked out the book for her, she was extremely grateful and told me, "Thank you so much, it really is not what you do, but how you do it.  It's nice to receive this kind of service.  And I should know because I was a teacher my whole life."  On her way out, she even made a point to find me and thank me again while I was shelving some material in the new adult section.

My online persona can be very different than how I really am in the library.  This is a place for me to vent when dealing with the frustrations that one encounters when dealing with the public and working in such a troubling field as librarianship.  I do my best to help every single patron I meet, even if some are extremely ungrateful and rude.  I didn't do anything out of the ordinary for her either, it's not like I jump-started her car or changed a flat tire which I would have gladly done for her.  Her comments were very touching but it made me wonder what kind of horrible experiences she might have had in the past when dealing with public librarians.  I may be an extremely jaded librarian, but I know how to repress it while I'm on the reference desk, it's part of the job.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Caldecott Dreaming...

Last week a patron came up to me at the info desk and asked for "watercolor Caldecott books."  Usually when  a patron requests something so specific, the chances of the library not having it and them walking out disappointed increases tenfold.  The same principle can be applied to when patrons make the vaguest requests, "I want to reread a book I read for school about boy, I don't know the author or the title, and that's all I know."

I told her that I could narrow down our collection to Caldecott picture books, but the catalog record wouldn't list if they were watercolored or not.  Our public catalog shows book covers but searching on it is as frustrating as using AskJeeves on Netscape Navigator on 28.8k baud dial-up.  So I turned to Amazon which was perfect because of the "Look Inside" option to browse a few pages.  One of the earlier book results was A Ball for Daisy and I told her that I was researching Caldecott books a few months ago and that I wasn't really sure about that year's decision.  It was then she mentioned that she is also in her first stages of researching Caldecott books and that she wants to write a picture book.  When she also said that she was not impressed with A Ball for Daisy, I told her that I also want to write a picture book, but I want to win a Caldecott with my first book.  She just grinned at me and said, "Well, we should trade notes, we'll both win an award with our first book!"

I have the skeletal structure of a story in my head, I just have transfer everything to paper.  Another one of my dreams is/was to write a book series that starts in boardbook format and progressively works it way up through to an novel.  I just think that the idea of having a whole generation grow along with a character is pretty awesome.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Gifting Patrons/Patron Gifting

A couple of months back, a very pregnant patron with a toddler in tow came up to me at the info desk and asked if I could help her with a flat tire.  I first asked if she had AAA or if she had a new car which included roadside assistance.  She said she had neither so I figured it was time to roll up my sleeves and get to work.  A few weeks later, I get an email from my supervisor saying that she stopped by to drop off this thank you gift.

It was my weekend off and he was really anxious to see what it was, he assumed it was a Rolex.  I told him he could open it, but he said he would wait impatiently until my next shift.

One thing library school professors don't tell you about public librarianship is about how thankless it is.  I can't speak for other library fields, I can only talk about my years of working with the public.  But I knew this before going in, you don't become a librarian only because you like to read or like books in general.  You do it because you genuinely love to help people and answer any and all questions imaginable.

During the holidays, patrons go out of their way to show their appreciation.  This was our break-room from this past holiday.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Happy Chinese New Year!

An elderly Taiwanese patron, who I usually help when I'm working, just handed me this card saying, "thanks for always helping me and happy belated Chinese New Year!"