Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Career Shift

While I don't regularly update this blog, I thought I should give an update of where I am. Currently, I'm sitting in a beautiful coworking space with my husband, my feet up and a latte at easy reach. Before you get too excited, know that I am nursing my last moments of freedom.

Around July, I experienced some panicky moments where I felt like maybe I wasn't cut out for the library life. But then I recovered. However, in the meantime, I did some serious evaluation of my life, thinking about my kids, my job and my happiness.

Library work makes me happy. But being with my kids and being able to take care of my family also makes me happy. I looked at a few things when I did this internal evaluation:

Of course. This is always a consideration. So, let's do some math: I made $40,000 a year. My drive was 100 miles each day, so I spent about $2500-$3200 a year on gas. I spent $1630 a month on daycare, so another $19,000 a year to keep my kids cared for while I went to work. So, already, I was only bringing home at most $18,000. If you then factor in the number of times I had to pick up dinner or buy fast, expensive food from the grocery store, I am certain I've wasted another good $1000-$2000 a year. My income was not augmenting our lifestyle in any significant way, in the end.

Each morning, I woke up at 5:45, which gave me about ten minutes to get myself ready for the day before I went and assembled breakfast for the kids. My morning was intense, with literally zero minutes for relaxation between 5:45 and when I finally dropped my son off at 7:20. I would then embark on my 45-minute commute. I left work every day at 4:30, arriving home at about 5:15, at which point I would frantically try to assemble dinner before my husband got home with the kids between 5:30-5:45. Then it was a race to eat dinner, get the kids bathed and have a little time to play before bedtime routines started at 7:00. And after they went to bed, my evenings were consumed until usually about 9:00 with cleaning, laundry and preparing for the next day. I was lucky if I had an hour to sit down before I fell asleep at 10. The constant running meant that my only time to do anything of significance was on the weekends, so rather than plan lots of fun and exciting things for our weekends, it was filled with projects that had to be completed, and attempts to entertain the kids while I worked on things.

When it came down to making a decision on what to do, I knew I needed to make a change. And while it broke my heart into many pieces to decide to do it, I knew that leaving work for a while was really the only thing I could do to improve my situation. It's going to mean a small reduction in income, but almost immediately after making the decision, my husband got a raise that almost negates the difference in salary.

So here I sit, on my 14th day since I left work on December 15. And in a few days, my daughter's daycare will end, and I will officially be a Stay-at-Home Mom. Still, I can't bear to leave libraries in total, so I will continue to do book reviews for Reference and User Services Quarterly, and have already told my boss that I'll be happy to come in and volunteer my services when they are needed.

I know library work is where I belong. I look at this as a pause button on my career and not an end to it. Libraries inspire me, and I can't imagine never working in one again. But for now, my kids and my family need me to be there for them in ways I couldn't be while working so much. It's a decision that was so difficult to make but was the right decision for me and my family right now. I look forward to the adventures I'll have at home, and I will be excitedly awaiting the right moment to jump back into the world of library work.

Friday, May 6, 2016

OLA2016 (or, How I Learned Stuff While Tweeting)

(I wrote this post weeks ago, and somehow never took it out of drafts. So, here it is, better late than never!)

I've been a "real" librarian for just over a year. And for a couple months of that year, I was on maternity leave, which is why I didn't attend Oklahoma Library Association conference last year (I think -- all that time period is kind of a haze). So, I was very excited to attend this year, for my very first time. I even missed it as a student, since I was working full time and didn't have the vacation days available for it.

But this year. THIS YEAR. I'm here. And I've loved it. I've been Tweeting like crazy, making librarian friends across Twitter, and finding out all kinds of great things about this library world. I feel invigorated by ideas and excited about what is coming next. I also feel worried for many of our librarians who depend on state funding, since our budget is in the toilet this year. (And next year. And probably every year hereafter until we figure out how not to be so dependent on oil.)

Here, in no particular order, are some things that I've felt were interesting/important or otherwise memorable:
  • Jamie LaRue, keynote speaker and President of the Freedom to Read Foundation made us all think about how we talk about our library. One of my favorite things that he said was that libraries don't write down our own stories, but we spend all of our time buying other people's stories. it's about time we learned to collect stories about our success, so that we can use that information to help increase funding and support of the library.
  • I was reminded, yet again, that for embedding to really work I have to go meet with departments. I have this fear of "inconveniencing" people and taking up their time. But they need library support, and they don't know what they don't know. So, I'm going to have to learn to be a little pushier. I think I'm going to start showing up in people's offices unannounced, and bring them treats and information.
  • LGBTQIA needs are something I want to learn more about, and I attended a session with some librarians who are very good at making that section of our users feel welcomed and understood. This is something I want to see happen at my own institution, and we are currently in the very beginning stages of doing that now.
  • I heard from OU LIS students and the interesting research they are doing in their program. I was especially interested to hear a presentation on social media, and it gave me a few ideas on how to increase our presence.
  • In a presentation from the University of Tulsa staff, I learned about some fascinating collections that are available in their special collections, including enormous photography collections from prolific Tulsa photographers. 
I'm an education freak. (As are many librarians, obviously.) Getting to spend two days hearing from librarians all over the state has been like going to Disney World. I can't imagine what it would be like if I actually got to go to ALA AT DISNEY WORLD. I'd probably have a complete meltdown. Sadly, due to aforementioned budgetary ridiculousness, the only way to do that is if I were to pay my way and take some vacation time. Alas. Maybe someday!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

"Other Duties As Assigned"

We have had a 3D printer in our library since June of last year. We started with an Ultimaker 2, and it was a beauty. It's bright and very exciting-looking. And out of the box, it worked pretty well. I was pleased with the first few projects, and so were our students. 

What I was not prepared for was the popularity of the printer. It took about a month for people to catch on. But then, for the next three months, my queue for printing was always about 5 people long. I created a request form, and started keeping a log when I realized I couldn't just hold everything in my head anymore. 

Then, at the beginning of this semester, we purchased a second 3D printer. After various fits thrown by the Ultimaker at the end of Fall, I felt like I was taking a breath of fresh air when I started printing with the Taz 5

It looks so much more complicated. It feels like it's serious business when you pull it out of the box, but it's actually (in some ways) easier to use than the Ultimaker. And so far, no fits to speak of (other than a couple of prints that inexplicably stopped with no explanation). 

When I started this job as a Reference & Instruction librarian, I thought I would be teaching classes, answering questions, and sitting at my desk a lot. With the addition of our Tech To-Go program and 3D printing to the library, I've added a whole new set of skills to my resume. 

I'm by no means an expert in 3D printing. But I probably know more than a lot of people. And there's so much interest in what they are and what they do, that I even began offering an "Introduction to 3D Printing" seminar once a semester. We only have a few people attend each time, but those people are fascinated from start to finish. They love seeing the printer at work. They ask all kinds of questions, and I even end up learning quite a bit from them on how you can use the 3D printers.

I know at face value, 3D printing may not seem practical. It's expensive, for one. And some people see it only as a glorified toy-maker. But I've seen how our students have responded to it, and it's been amazing. The things they think of and attempt often surprises me. For instance, one student had a simple problem - the handle on his (very old) mini fridge broke. This is a student who is in a heavy equipment maintenance program, so it's not as if he has spent much time learning design or drafting. Earlier in the semester, I showed him the online tool Tinkercad. After a couple of small projects that he had made for fun, he was able to design a brand new handle, up to the perfect specifications for his old fridge. 

In the end, he was able to print a handle for about $7 at the library. To find the right replacement part would have cost him upwards of $50. For that cost, he would have been able to buy an entirely new fridge.

Becoming a 3D Printing hotspot on campus was not something I had anticipated in this project. But it's been delightful seeing how the students use the technology. And I have a feeling this skill will come in very handy as I continue my library career. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Tech To-Go

For the last couple of months, I have been hard at work on a program to offer our students something completely new to our library - a host of technology for them to take home and play with.

Now, being and institute of technology, one would think that we would have already had this sort of thing available, but not so much. Up until now, it's been somewhat out of reach. But we recently increased student fees to allow for us to provide better services to our students. This is one of those cases that we're really delivering what we promised.

In May, we discussed the idea of having a technology lending program. And in June, we were ordering everything we needed to get it started. The next few weeks felt like Christmas, with box after box of really cool equipment arriving.

 So, by July, this is what my bottom file drawer looked like:

I liked to joke with my husband that I had $15k of equipment just hanging out at my desk. (Not really quite that much, but it was definitely a lot of money.)

I spent the next couple of months going through every item. On the tablets, I uploaded apps I thought would be useful, put together folders, figured out the tips and tricks. It was a long process of basically playing with all kinds of technology. I wore the watches around for a day (both a Samsung Gear and the Apple Watch), so I could talk about each. I worked with our IT services on some items that needed their touch (specifically the Apple products and Dell products), and others I was on my own to get up and running. 

The whole process was very clunky, I'll tell you. I was flying on my own a lot of the time. We had a few documents from a sister campus that I used to frame some of my own final documents, but generally, I spent a lot of time doing trial and error on different aspects of the program. I'd think through it like a student, then like a faculty member. I tried to anticipate questions and problems, and then tweak and adjust until I felt like I had something right. 

Once I thought I had everything figured out, I created a libguide (which you can view here), so that the students wouldn't have to go through the same growing pains I did with each item. They would have tips, tricks, full instructions and item limitations right at their fingertips. 

The program went live on September 1, the first day of our semester. It was a rocky first few days, but soon, everything was ironed out, and things started flying off the shelves.

Posting silly photos of myself to social media is my main approach to advertising.

My director has encouraged me to submit a proposal to discuss how we set up the program for the Oklahoma Library Association, so sometime soon I'm going to sit down and write it all out, and figure out every hurdle I had to jump over in the process. If it gets accepted, I suppose I'll have to tell a whole group of people how many times I screwed up along the way. 

Still, the program is in place, and so far, I think it's been a success. Whew. Way to NOT waste the students' library fees!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Everyone Wants to Play with Dry Erase Boards

A while back, I read a great post over on Letters to a Young Librarian about the effectiveness of doing white board polls in a small library. Immediately, I was intrigued. We have a small school as well, with a one-room library. Everyone passes through the same area here, and it was a prime location for doing just this very thing. So, just a few days after reading the post, I began my own white board polls. I've tried to do a variety of topics -- some serious, some fun, some a little of both.

Our PC vs. Mac poll got a fair amount of interest. We had recently had a request to add more Apple computers to our lab, because the two currently available are only available to our Visual Communications students to use. I was a bit surprised by the poll, as I thought more people would prefer Macs than actually did. (And yes, I'm aware that the symbol for the PC I put up is actually a symbol for Windows, but it was the closest I could get to the idea of a "PC" in pictorial representation.)

I'm also hoping to put together a "Quick Print" station where students can just walk up and quickly and easily print on a computer that is already logged in. Our other computers are notorious for taking up to 5 minutes to log in, and students are notorious for wanting to come print two minutes before an assignment is due in class. This poll was designed to help me understand what we would need to have available on that computer. 

 And, our most active poll so far has been a fun one - Star Wars vs. Star Trek. As you can see, the debate got heated.

This has definitely been a great addition to the library's everyday operations. I'm able to post on social media when we have a new poll up, and some students and faculty weigh in through that platform. I also find that students just love to have an excuse to play with dry erase markers. Plus, it's been a treat for me to dream up ideas for each poll!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Kindness Audit

Shortly after reading this presentation on a kindness audit over at Mr. Library Dude, we had a library meeting and our director brought up the fact that we still had some room in our budget to make some changes around the library. She asked if there were things we could improve and I immediately thought of a kindness audit.

My first thought in reading through the presentation was that I would prefer to do such an audit with someone who was completely new to our library, but used to libraries in general. I would want it to be unbiased by my own opinions on what we should change, and done with completely fresh eyes. And, lucky for us, we have just hired a new Technical Services librarian, who has worked in several libraries before.

So, today I led her to the presentation and asked her if she could do her own audit of our space. I know there are places where we are missing signage that might be helpful. There are arrangements of furniture that I might want to move around. There are some new pieces of furniture we could order to make things more comfortable.

Over the next week or two, we'll conduct the audit, and I'll be sure to post the results here. I'm interested to see what everyone thinks could be improved, and what changes we might make.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

All Polite-Like

I have to say that one of the most surprising things about working in the library I do is the politeness of the patrons. I remember my days as an undergrad. "Polite" was not ever a word I would use to describe college freshmen or sophomores. I could think of a lot of other words. Entitled. Loud. Obnoxious. Not all of them, to be sure, but there was a large percentage who were just not pleasant to be around, and I saw them repeatedly being rude to anyone over the age of 25.

However, most of the young students I have encountered at this school are polite to the point of almost being annoying. They wait patiently at the desk to ask if they can use one of my kajillion OSU pencils. (Use them? Take them with you! I sure don't need them.) They stand behind one another queuing up for simple questions, rather than interrupting a conversation I'm having with a faculty member. They sometimes wipe their feet on the mat before walking in. They say please, thank you and (much to my chagrin) use "ma'am" liberally.

Maybe it's the fact that most of them come from a rural background, and they were taught to treat people with respect. And maybe it's because I look terrifying and they don't want to anger the beast. Either way, I'll take it.