This is Circulating Ideas, I’m Steve Thomas. My guest today is Meredith Farkas. She’s a faculty librarian at Portland Community College in Oregon. Her blog, Information Wants To Be Free, can be found at meredith.wolfwater.com.
Meredith, welcome to the show.
Thanks, it’s great to be here.
You have been blogging for a very long time, more than a decade. One of the things, and I, we pointed out before we started recording, that you were on the show previously, but not with me, you were on with an episode that Kate Sheehan guest starred, guest, guest hosted. And just to confirm, there was another episode I had with the Annoyed Librarian and that is not you still, right?
Right, no, I am still not the Annoyed Librarian. Promise!
Yeah, I went back and I was just reading over some other stuff that you’d written in the past and I came across that one again and I was like, well, it’s funny that you talked about how they were like not relevant back then and then just like it’s still going on.
I know. I don’t know, I don’t have that, quite that level of passive-aggressiveness, that it would take to sustain a snark blog for that long, ugh, yeah.
Yeah, I didn’t look at how long ago that was, but that was many, many years ago, so.
It was a really long time ago, I know, I kind of thought it would like this flash in the pan reflects the annoyance of the, sort of, library 2.0 time and then it was going to fall away, but no. I mean, I don’t read it any more, but I.
Yeah, no, somebody linked to it recently and I was like oh that’s still around, okay, I guess so. Okay. But yeah, you are one of the first people I started reading online when I started getting into online stuff cause you’ve been doing your blog since 20-, what is it, -04, -05?
So what, what made you want to start blogging?
Probably because I was annoying the heck out of my husband, talking about library stuff, cause I did my library degree online. I started up my blog towards the end of the time I was getting my degree and like there was nobody for me to just, you know, hang out with after class and talk about library stuff except my poor husband, who really did not.
I mean he’s a great listener, but he didn’t care that much, so you know, finding a way to sort of get my thoughts out there. Also, I find I’m kind of a slow thinker and I process my thoughts really well when I’m writing, much better than like talking something out, so I just really enjoy it, I kind of find it therapeutic to, to write and think about, think deeply about how I feel about things in our profession.
And you also have a long running column in American Libraries magazine. How, do you have any kind of thing in your mind of what you decide to write for American Libraries and what you decide to put on your blog? Is there some special mission that you’re doing for the column that you wouldn’t talk about on your blog? Or anything like that?
I think there are two, yeah they’re two very different things. I mean, I feel like my blog is somewhere that I, where I really process my thoughts on things and, and rant sometimes. And, yeah, and my column I really try to focus on technologies and advice that would be useful for people who are trying to implement technologies at places where maybe they don’t have super techy people, they don’t have tonnes of support, or money and how can they sort of make things happen.
Yeah and I, one of the posts I was looking at on your blog when I was prepping for this, I seem to recall even reading about one of, when it first came out, it was from 2014, talking about, I think it was when you had written for the, that it was like your decade look back at the blog.
Oh my gosh, yes.
And you talked about where for the, that rockstar phenomenon where you kind of feel like, you feel like maybe you sort of fit into that at one point, but you’ve moved on past it and. Can you talk about that a little bit? Of that sort of, where librarians feel like we have this rockstar phenomenon and how you kind of moved through it?
Yeah. I mean, it was really weird cause I started this blog and all of a sudden people were reading it, which was super surprising and very flattering, and, and then, you know, I’m just writing stuff. I didn’t even have a job yet and I get this, these followers and, and I get a book deal and all these things just start happening and for somebody like me who still suffers horribly from imposter syndrome, this is like very disturbing and I know a lot of people think that’s false modesty, but like, it, getting that much attention is like deeply unsettling and uncomfortable for me. So, yeah, it was just really weird to be thought of as a rockstar or anything particularly special, getting to Library Journal Mover and Shaker thing and god, what was it, 2006 was just weird because I didn’t think I’d done enough at that point in my career to even deserve it. You know, I think there are people who try to be rockstars and those are usually people who are trying to further their career in some way. Either they want to be a consultant or professional speaker or they want to get a better job than what they have. So, I think there are people who do court that and try to become rockstars. But, I think a lot of the people I knew who were thought of as rockstars were just people who were really awesome and wanted to share what they knew with others. And I think of that as being amazingly generous.
That was sort of what, when you started your blog and there were other, other people around, that was sort of the period when I was kind of getting started, noticing, notice things online too, and I’d just got out of library school, things like that, so it was you and Jessamyn and Sarah Houghton and David Lee King and Michael Stephens and all of those. It sort of, you were the first people who were really blogging and really talking about this stuff, so it wasn’t so much that were trying to be look how cool I am, it was just you were the people out there blogging on a regular basis about interesting things.
Yeah, yeah. And all of those people you named, I know them and they’re wonderful, caring individuals who don’t do this because of their ego, they’re not out there giving talks and stuff because of that. They are great librarians and in Michael’s case a great LIS Professor, and they, I mean should be applauded for sharing their ideas with the profession, not hated because they got a lot of attention for that.
Right, I think they, they were getting attention because, and you, for, to having great ideas, not just for.
Yeah, yeah, I don’t know. Not the Mick Jagger swagger or anything like that.
Yeah, and I think you know we all had day jobs where we either worked in libraries or worked with library school students like we were I think engaged and plugged into what was happening in the real world of librarianship, which is helpful.
Yeah, and I think that’s the, that’s what a lot of the backlash became I think, was the people that seemed like, seemed like they were just professional keynote speakers and it’s like well, okay, but are you actually going to put that into practice? Or.
Right, right, absolutely and yeah, I, I even became uncomfortable with that because often I was talking about stuff that people were doing at other libraries and I was like I’m not really talking about what I’m doing at my own library and I really like how now I give talks much more focused on my own experiences with instruction and assessment and my research rather than, you know, just finding cool stuff that other libraries are doing and sort of, and condensing that and talking about it. I feel much more comfortable I think with where what I’m doing now.
And do you, do you still do a lot of speaking at conferences? Or have you cut back on that?
I cut back a lot. I don’t like to travel as much now that I have a child and also, yeah, I mean it just became, it felt like just so much travel, so much, you know giving the same talk over and over again and I really like now that I just give, you know, a few talks a year. I can really make them awesome and really focus on speaking from my own experiences as a community college librarian.
And, we won’t go into this too much because this is the whole topic of the other episode that you were on, of work/life balance with Kate and Karen and, who was the fourth person? Jenica Rogers. But, do you feel like you’ve gotten a good work/life balance at this point? I mean do you feel like you’re like, is cutting back on the conferences helped, help balance that for you?
It is always shifting. I mean, every time I feel like I have a good balance, something comes in my work or my life that just sort of screws it up and then I have to reassess. Like, I just had to tell my colleagues that OLA that I’m not going to be the Chair of the Membership Committee next year cause I just can’t do it any more because I have to take on another commitment at work and I want to see my family and all that good stuff. And have a life. So, yeah, it’s, it’s constantly in flux and I, I’m just getting better at saying no to things than I used to be, so still, you know, I think yes people are always yes people and it can be hard to break oneself of that habit.
Yeah, I think it’s hard because, you know, cause we are sort of a profession of people who always want to help and always want to jump in and pitch in, but it’s like, yeah you have to, you have to look out for yourself too, I mean.
Not to a, you know, narcissistic degree, but you have to, there’s self care you have to take care of too.
Oh yeah, totally.
So, can you talk about what you do at Portland Community College? What your job is?
Sure. Yeah, I am a Faculty Librarian here at PCC and basically that is kind of a generic liaison librarian type role. I teach classes, I work the reference desk, I do collection development, I have a bizarre array of liaison areas which I love because they don’t, you know, they’re not just in the social sciences which is what I’ve always done, I’ve got like performing arts and sign language interpreting and all these really diverse interesting areas and yeah, I mean, to me it’s like meat and potatoes librarianship and that’s what I really want to take it back to after being a manager for about 6 years. I really wanted to start really doing, doing more teaching, less managing of people and yeah, I love what I do here. It’s a great place to work.
Yeah, I mean it sounds like you’re wanting to get more like, cause when you, when you get up into management you get a level away from people, so you’re not so much like what, I’m a manager at my job and so I don’t get to work at the help desk quite as much, and I don’t get to actually interact with the students quite as much and, and, or the public or anything like that, so it’s, yeah it’s nice to get your hands dirty sort of.
Yeah, yeah. I really, I was surprised because I do love, I mean I loved being a manager, I loved supporting my direct reports and advocating for them. And I found that work really meaningful, but I remember at one point I got some extra managerial duties and suddenly I was told, oh yeah you’re not going to be on the desk for a year and I was like oh my god, like how, how do you know what needs to be done or like what’s going on and what the ? is without being at the desk, and so yeah I think it’s really important to have that, that contact and I, I realize how much I missed it, so, yeah it’s really nice being at a place that is totally focused on student learning and teaching and it’s wonderful.
And you’ve, you talked a lot about embedded librarianship, I think most people who listen to this probably know what that is, but can you kind of talk generally about what embedded librarianship is and how you implement it?
Sure, so embedded librarianship I think was originally defined as, in, in terms of being online, like focusing on, you know having a librarian who is devoted to a specific class and they do all, and they are, you know, present in the class, or a discussion board or something like that and they work deeply with the students in that class and I don’t see, I see that as being a part of embedded librarianship, but to me it’s really about being a critical part of the curriculum. Whether that is being deeply involved in certain courses or just making sure that information literacy is embedded in the curriculum, even if a librarian isn’t the one teaching it, it’s just making sure that that is a critical part of a student’s, of every student’s experience.
And is that something that you work at, do you generally focus then on your like your subject areas or do you kind of try and get outside of that as well? Do you work with specific classes, or something like that?
Yeah, so we’re in an interesting position here at PCC where we are, we are liaisons, but we are at four different campuses. So, there are people teaching classes in anthropology, one of my liaison areas at Cascade that I never get to work with. So, I work really closely with departments that are not necessarily by liaison area, like our developmental education program which includes reading and developmental math. I really try to work closely with them to try to embed information literacy, particularly into Reading 115 which is this major developmental education class that a lot of students take and is, and they have a, an actual information literacy project that they have to complete, so making sure we really support them through that is, is important.
And do you have recommendations for like librarians who are not, maybe their institution is not, doesn’t support this kind of thing, how they can sort of, arguments they can use to convince their administration maybe that this is something that they should pursue?
Well, I don’t even think they need to say like we’re pursuing embedded librarianship, I think it’s, you know, the, the key thing is really talking to faculty. I think they’re the biggest barrier is, you know, building relationships with faculty takes time and effort and being more extroverted than many of us librarians are.
I’m an introvert, it is very comfortable for me to stay in my cubicle and do my thing here, but like getting out and really getting to know faculty, getting to know what their needs are, what they’re seeing with student work that they’re frustrated by and really focusing on meeting those needs and not just focusing on like articles as a library I think is, is critical. And when you can show that there are certain needs that are not being met, I think then you can use that as good ammunition with your administrators or whoever to say like this needs to happen because our faculty are not happy with, with what students are doing on this project and we want to help with that.
Right, so you need to be more proactive and, I mean show, show them how the library can help solve a problem that they already have and not just library’s great.
Yes, exactly. I mean, yeah, you get those faculty who are like “Oh, I love the library, we want to bring the students in to get them to love the library!” and there’s no assignment or anything tied to it and you’re just like oh god you’re gonna make the students hate the library. So yeah, I mean, I love those people who love, love the library, but yeah, we really want to make it concrete and focused on like what, how can we help students to be successful? And it’s not having them come in with no assignment.
And, your previous job was also in Portland. Have you been in Portland for a long time? Did you move there for a job? Or are you from that area? Or your husband from that area?
No, I moved, I moved there for a job at Portland State University as their Head of Instructional Services and I was there for, I think three-and-a-half years before I came to PCC, so yeah I’ve been here a total of six years and I love, or five years sorry, and I love Portland. It’s the best place.
What is it that you like about Portland?
Oh god, it has everything. It’s like, it’s a, it feels like a small town, or a small city and it is a really small city and, but it has everything. We have amazing food culture, we have, you know, this amazing artisan culture where people are making stuff and building stuff and just doing all this great creative work. It just feels very electric living here.
And Portlandia is a good representation or a bad representation?
It’s a pretty nice documentary about our town. You know, to a slight extreme, but, but yes we do have artisans light bulbs and all of that crazy stuff.
Putting birds on things and…
Oh, my gosh, yes, everywhere and owls, especially owls are like the new black.
So, you also teach classes at San Jose.
I’m not, I was going to say an MLS program but I’m not sure they’re an information school I guess.
Yes the I-school now.
No library, not term library there. What class or classes do you teach there?
So, for a long time I taught a course on social media, but for the past couple of years I’ve been teaching a class focused on embedding libraries into the fabric of higher education. So, a lot of what I talked about before, but also like working with student support services, reaching out to faculty, oh gosh, yeah, even, even embedding information literacy when we’re not actually teaching it, like teaching faculty how to teach, teach information literacy themselves, So, yeah. All of that good stuff. It’s a really fun class and I absolutely love working with library school students, they make me feel so optimistic about the future of our profession.
And how long have you been doing that?
Since 2008. So, it’s, it’s been a while. I, this was another weird thing. I wrote a blog post saying how much, how my dream has always been to teach library school because I felt like I had such a bad online learning experience in my library school and I feel like I could do better and then I got, like an email a couple of days later from somebody at San Jose State. They were amazing. Like, I cannot recommend working for them more because they are flexible, they really let you try crazy things. I mean for years I used Drupal as my LMS and just ran it myself and, and had, you know, used it as the blogging platform and of course management platform and it was really, really fun and they just, yeah they support whatever it is you want to do with your class.
It seemed like they’re one of the better schools that are keeping up with the changing profession, cause sometimes I always use the example, I mean I went to school more than 10 years ago now, but they are still teaching command line dialog and stuff and it’s like what are you doing here? But, I mean, they, a lot of library schools tend to sometimes be a little behind what’s actually happening in libraries, but I’ve always heard that San Jose is pretty good at that.
Yeah, oh my gosh. They’re always on the cutting edge. I mean sometimes to the point where I’m like wow that’s a really specific class. Like, oh my god, like what is Web 3.0. I mean I don’t even know what that means. But, like they are definitely, they have their finger on the pulse of like what employers are looking for. I think it’s great that they’re in Silicon Valley. That the person in charge of the program has a background working in the corporate area of, of librarianship.
And I think they bring that understanding that, you know, many people will be working in libraries but others won’t and we need to build that also non-traditional skillset. So, that we can be a flexible profession.
Well, you, we talked earlier about the, when you started your blog and everything and the book that you wrote, Social Software In Libraries, you were talking about social media pretty early on in social media, do you still keep active in social media?
I’ve, I keep active personally on social media and I do help maintain our library’s Facebook page, which, this is the first time I’ve ever actually been in charge of a library Facebook page which is very ironic since I’ve talked about this stuff forever. But, yeah, I definitely never sort of festishsized social media, I always felt like it’s a tool and if it has a good use in your profession, in your professional work great. But yeah, we have a Facebook, we, I convinced, I convinced my colleagues to get rid of our Twitter account because it just, we weren’t updating it often enough and it seemed to make more sense to focus on a single point of contact that more of our students were using. But yeah, I mean I use social media a lot personally, I’m not on Twitter as much as many people cause I just can’t, I’m not good at juggling like my personal, my work and the stream.
Jumping in and out of the river.
Oh god, I don’t know how people do it. I’m so, I’m always so impressed. Like, my, my research partner on a lot of projects, Lisa Hinchliffe, who’s running for ALA President, she like is always super engaged on Twitter and stuff, even before she was running for ALA President and, and yet she’s super productive in every other aspect of her life. I kind of think she has a clone somewhere who’s doing some of this, but.
That’s a scandal we’re breaking out for the election season.
Yes. Lisa Hinchliffe, clone.
Yeah, it’s like Orphan Black.
Yeah, but I think you’re right, that, like you said, you cut back just the Facebook page cause you want, it is just a tool and you want to use the right tool, not just jump in and say oh well we have a Facebook and an Instagram and a Twitter and a blah blah blah blah blah.
Oh I know.
And everything and it’s like well, but, just use the one that your people are actually using, so.
Well, and also like, oh, how much return on investment are you getting from this? You know, like we don’t have a tonne of followers, I know some libraries have a tonne of followers, they get a lot of interaction, we don’t. I think we primarily are using it as a like, sending out news and lighthearted cute stuff and informational things about using the library. But, like how much time do you want to devote to something that might not be as important to your library as like your instruction program. Other things, the other weight.
And that could go away at any moment too, I mean I remember, you know, 10 years ago everybody was like we have to be on MySpace, you have to be on MySpace. And I was like well, okay.
Somebody the other day mentioned Second Life and I was like I guess ALA Island is still around somewhere and it’s, it’s.
It’s like I imagine it’s like the world at the end of Inception where this, it’s like this no-one goes to it any more and everybody will be look buildings are falling apart and it’s just…
Yeah. I was always so, I was always so skeptical of Second Life and I, I tried to, you know, cause I had some friends who were like super enthusiastic and worked there and everything, but is this really the future of friend services? I don’t think that’s what a lot of people are coming to Second Life for, it just, yeah, I was really skeptical and I’ve been skeptical of other things and been completely wrong about them in the past. So, but that was one I’m like yeah okay, take that off, I was right.
Well, you also wrote one piece about the Librarian of Congress and I know one thing that was, you said they changed your title so it actually didn’t sound, like you said they said I guess the next Librarian of Congress should be an actual librarian and you didn’t actually say that. Or in that case at all, but.
Now that there’s been at least a nomination of somebody, are you happy with the nomination of Carla Hayden?
Beyond my wildest dreams. I mean I didn’t think Obama would be that forward-thinking to nominate somebody who not only is a librarian, but has this amazing background in supporting user rights, both with copyright and privacy that is amazingly exciting to me. And the fact that he did that given his kind of lackluster history with protecting the privacy of his citizens, I don’t know, like that’s the, it’s a really weird mixed message, but like kind of making me very happy and excited.
Yeah, we can knock on wood that it actually, she actually is confirmed. That hasn’t gone through the whole process yet and who knows.
Well, and I know that they’re trying to take the Copyright Office away from, from the Librarian of Congress altogether, which it’s like, finally we’ll have somebody decent and they won’t have any authority – great.
Yeah, well it was funny to read the responses from the MPAA and the RIAA of just the sort of, oh yeah we’re happy, sure.
“As long as she leaves us alone” speech, that they have.
And like you said, you didn’t put that part in there, but what, there was some arguing of the oh he chose an actual librarian, but to me I, I think I even used that phrase, I don’t mean somebody that you know, that has an MLS, I mean somebody that, you know, will take our values and bring it into that sphere, unlike the former Librarian of Congress because of historian, things like that, that they have their own values and it’s not really the same as what librarians value I think.
Oh totally, totally. I think there are tonnes of people out there who would have supported the values that we hold dear about libraries and also would come with that background of really deeply understanding where technology’s going in terms of preserving and making accessible cultural heritage materials and there are lots of people who get that, who don’t have a degree in library science but gosh, I mean to have somebody like her who has that too and has run large confusing, complex organizations and has, you know, doesn’t communicate by fax and throw things at people and abuse their employees, at least I’ve never heard of her doing any of those things, that sounds truly wonderful.
Yes, no I, I’m very hopeful that she’ll get the nomination, so.
Yeah, me too.
Another thing that you had written about in the past, and I had written, I had talked about a little bit on some social media stuff that it happened cause I hadn’t. So you have an article in every issue of American Libraries, you have your column and I had an article in the January issue and in that same issue there was another article that people had some problems with because, including the authors of the article.
Because apparently, I don’t know that we still have the entire story of what happened, but they wrote this article and then American Libraries, somebody inserted some quotes from a vendor that made it sound like it was, like you would assume that the authors put it in there.
Have you ever had an issue, not even specifically American Libraries, but anybody you’ve written for before having this sort of, I guess problematic editing is a good term for it, of putting things in that you didn’t, that changed, changed the message of what you were putting in?
I have never had an experience like that and I would be just as livid as those authors had I had an experience like that. I know with my book, a copy editor went through it and like I thought completely changed my way of writing in a way that it didn’t read like me at all anymore and I actually went through and like re-changed tonnes of it because it just felt like they were, they were changing it for changes sake, not because there was anything actually wrong. Like they couldn’t identify that there was anything actually wrong with the way I wrote it. So, I’ve always pushed back on that, but yeah, I was really appalled that, that happened, especially at American Libraries where I’ve had such positive experiences with, with my editors and they’ve, you know, always shown me the changes the make and I approve them or make, make additional changes or push back, but they’ve always been very, very good and helpful with me. But yeah, I, I feel like what kind of drove me crazy about that whole thing was like it’s like every other social media backlash, like everybody freaks out about it and yells and there’s an apology and people don’t take it seriously and then it just disappears.
Like, I don’t feel like anything’s been really substantially addressed about it.
That’s what I, when I put the topic down here to kind of bring up with you and talk to you, I was like I don’t even know how that ended. It was just sort of everybody got mad and then like you said there was the sort-of apology, but semi-apology and then that was kind of it and I think they got permission I guess then to publish it elsewhere without those quotes in it.
Yeah. No, I know, like, this is why social media drives me crazy these days. It’s like we have this like blame and shame game and we all like get this vitriol out, oh we’re so angry, but then we just go onto the next thing to be angry about instead of actually trying to change the things that we were focused on in the first place and I feel very strongly that, American Libraries needs to address this head on and look at their editorial guidelines so that they never do this again to an author because I mean, I remember Lisa Hinchliffe brought up rightly so how do we know, how can we trust that your stuff hasn’t been edited like this?
And that is a cause for concern. It, I mean I never had that experience and I know Joe Janes said the same thing on Twitter, like we’ve all had really good experiences, but how does, is anybody supposed to trust that what we wrote is what we wrote?
Right, like the article that I had written was about podcasts, like how does somebody not know that Apple paid me not to put, to put in the sentence about their podcasting apps, or how does, maybe they gave American Libraries money to put that in, or you mentioned some library vendor and there’s like well did you actually say that? Or did they pay you to say that? Or.
It’s the appearance of impropriety.
I know, I know, I really feel like this needs to be addressed more deeply than it has and I hope that something’s going on with the, I think, I know there’s the, they have an advisory committee and then there’s like publications committees, there’s, I hope somebody is doing something right now to address this beyond just an apology.
And it would be nice if there was some transparency to know that if that was happening, cause as far as we know, I mean maybe that is happening and we just, you know, sometimes things that an organization that’s larger than ALA, things move at a glacial pace sometimes as getting things done. Maybe they’re waiting, oh well you know when we can meet at annual, you know, we’ll talk about that and so.
Yeah, and also I completely get why one wouldn’t want to be transparent after the kind of backlash they got.
Like, I would want to sweep this under the rug if I had been subject to that kind of vitriol and, and a complete lack of like productive dialogue.
Well, and that’s another problem with that outrage culture sort of thing, of why would they want to engage you if that’s how’s you’re going to respond.
Yeah. Oh my god, I read the Jon Ronson book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, this summer and I was just, oh, it’s like everything that makes me crazy about social media and I’ve become so much more aware of this, like cycle of vitriol and just trying not to let myself get pulled into it to be irrational.
Yeah, and well I, you know, we’re not going to get into a political discussion but you know what that feeds into larger issues of the other things that are, people that are popular because of outrage and things like that and there’s just. It’s just sort of, the overall culture of sort of getting like that and I think Twitter and Facebook just sort of make it easier because you can just sit at your keyboard and type something out and it’s not looking somebody in the eye.
Exactly, and we, oh we’ve vented our outrage about this issue and now we don’t actually have to do anything substantial to make the world a better place.
Yeah. So that’s a problem.
Yeah. I mean, my views on social media have definitely changed over the years, but, right?
Well I, and related to that, I mean, librarians often have, I guess problematic is a good word for it, relationships with vendors that sometimes we’re a little too cushy with them. I mean I know I’m going to PLA soon, I’m getting all these invitations to parties and all those kind of stuff. It’s like well, should I be going to a big, fancy, schmancy party put on by a vendor. Am I supposed to be learning? I mean that’s, that’s always a problem too.
Yeah, yeah, I’ve gotten, you know, it always feels nice, like oh I’m invited to all these cool events and I’m going to be with the cook kids, but like yeah, it’s deeply problematic to be taking all these like perks from these companies when, when they’re giving us such garbage to deal with so much of the time, you know, and spending like, you know, Ex Libris spends all this great money on making us love them, or whatever, or not hate them, but then like once you have their product, like we have Alma and Primo, actually getting them to change substantially things that we’re deeply unhappy with is almost impossible and we’re a giant consortium, we’re like most of the academic libraries in the Pacific Northwest and we still can’t get what we want.
Yeah, but here’s a tote bag though, so.
Yeah, oh yeah, well, I know, I remember when Google got rid of their librarian blog, people were like they don’t love librarians anymore, blah blah blah, like they never loved us, maybe they’re using us, don’t you.
Yeah, well cause I, cause I remember they came to like ALA conferences for a few years there and had big, big, huge booths and they went away, it’s like hmmmm.
I don’t want to have to like a vendor because they’re kissing my butt, like that’s so ridiculous.
It’s so ridiculous. I, this is why I like I mostly stay out of the exhibit halls, I don’t go to events like that, I don’t accept things from vendors cause I just feel way too uncomfortable with, with that.
Yeah, well and that’s kind of the problem, is that, like you said, I mean it puts, it puts us at a disadvantage because we’re already apparently a pretty much of a pushover I guess with vendors because they just kind of do whatever what they want with us and we just kind of accept it.
Well cause the cost of leaving is so high, I mean.
Right, that’s the thing with journals, like you have college that has a huge biology program, you can’t just say well we’re not going to have nature any more. It’s like, well, you can’t just not have one of the premiere journals.
Exactly, exactly. So, and, and our faculty pressure us and put us in a position where, where we can’t take a political stance and I admire people like Jenica who took that stance with the American Chemical Society and, and other people who’ve really like, libraries who have put their foot down and said we’re not going to take your, your horrible package deals that keep going up exponentially every year, like we’re just not, we’re not doing this.
And that kind of thing I think requires, and I think Jenica got that, requires faculty back of, back up, I mean you have to have their buy-in, so.
Oh yeah, I mean otherwise they’re, you’re going to lose any support for your library. So, yeah, yeah you need to sort of advocate with faculty and you know, sort of get them politicized and angry about these things too.
As libraries are obviously changing, a lot, and outside people, you know, have the always of oh libraries are dead, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and we know they’re not, we’re just changing and people don’t understand what sort of, what we’re changing into. Do you have any thoughts on how we can help manage that change with our communities and within ourselves? Because I think we also have a lot of staff a lot of times that have been around for a long time and they don’t quite understand how to change either.
Right. Well I think, this is why assessment is so amazingly valuable, because instead of making the case like we have to change because the profession is changing and the world’s changing, we can actually collect user, user experience data and other sorts of user needs assessment data and show like this is what our users need and want. This is what we’re seeing in our communities, we’re getting out there and talking to people and we need to change because of this, not just because of our intuition about how things are changing or because we really fetishize whatever cool thing we’re reading about in whatever magazine or wherever, you know, it’s, it really needs to be about the users and what they need and want from us and how our communities are changing and, and how we can be there and I mean that’s why it’s always nice to see different libraries doing different things and not being in lock step. I mean, for some libraries Maker Spaces are the way to go, you know, others are, are circulating like, I just saw that the Hillsboro Public Library in my area is circulating karaoke machines.
And I’m just like that is awesome, that’s the cool, like, like just go with it, you know, do what your users need and want from you, you know, try, try innovative things, you know, that aren’t super expensive or whatever. Give them a try and see if they stick, but like really our focus should be on assessing and basing what we do on that and not the things that we’re super duper excited about.
Well and that ties into what you were talking about when we were talking about embedded librarianship and that, that’s what you’re doing there, you’re getting with your faculty and with the students and figuring out what it is they actually need.
And not just pushing it, pushing what you think is cool cause you read about it. Some other library did it, so.
And god, I’ve had those moments, I mean I, I did an embedded librarian pilot in my first job where I was embedded in all of these online classes and like thought oh I’m doing what they did at Vermont Technical College and it’s so cool and this is just what I wanted to do, I read this great article and I’m going to make it happen and it was like a disaster basically, all the reference questions that we normally got through the desk, through our entire reference team were coming to me and it, I mean, it was so much work, they expected me to be on 24/7 and it was just unsustainable. It was completely unsustainable, so yeah I, we’ve all had those moments where like that sounds so cool, I’m gonna try it here and it’s a disaster and you know our students really didn’t need me to be more accessible in that way.
You know, I’ve learned that putting content in their classroom proactively was really helpful, but, but being like in 27 different discussion boards that I had to check every single day, multiple times, was not an efficient use of my time and didn’t really help students that much.
Well, and that’s something I think I don’t remember if it was you that I was reading or somebody else but like when you’re sort of, especially when you’re first fresh out of library school, you’re all these full of ideas and want to just implement all these new things and change everything, but it’s also important I think to understand, get to know a place first before you come in and just sweep in all these changes cause it could be just something that they’re doing for a long time is good because it’s a good thing, not just, I mean sometimes it’s the well that’s what we’ve always done so that’s how we do it, but figure out what is the right thing to do, not just I’m new and so I’m going to do new things.
Yeah, and I don’t even think it’s just new librarians who do that. I remember having a colleague who had been at this one other library for like 20-something years and then came and just wanted to like make our library just this mini-version of their previous institution and we’re going to. Oh, well this is how we did it here and it’s like oh, we’re not the same. We have a different population, like let’s figure out what they need.
Yeah, I try not to do that as much as I can, I’ve moved to, I’ve been in the same library system for a while but I’ve moved to different branches and I try not to just do everything we did at the last branch because each community is different, so.
Well, Meredith, where can people go to find out more about you online?
Well they can go to my blog, Information Wants To Be Free, which is at meredith.wolfwater, all one word, dot com. That’s a good place to sort of see what I’m up to. I don’t blog quite as much as I used to, but I, I do my best.
I did, I talked to the author Cory Doctorow a while back and he, he mentioned that, he doesn’t like the Information Wants To Be Free thing any more cause he says information doesn’t want to be amortized, but.
I love that, I love that. Yeah.
All right, Meredith thank you so much for talking to me.
Oh, certainly, it was really fun. Thanks, Steve.
Right, thanks, bye.
Yeah, this would be very interesting if I couldn’t hear you the whole time, so.
“Oh, that was a very interesting answer, Meredith.”
I just randomly say that and…
So you think.
“And how do you feel about that?”
Just talk for about 45 minutes, I’ll just interrupt, every once in a while I’ll interrupt you, so.
Oh, good lord.
“Oh, libraries, huh? Yeah. Mmm hmmm.”