Friday, December 5, 2008

End of Year Reports - and Thank Yous!

This has been quite a year. One that will go into the history books for the astounding achievement of electing an intelligent, strong leader who happens to be the first U.S. African American President, for the turmoil of the U.S. economy, the tracking of global climate changes and extreme weather, and personally, a year of stretches.

It's interesting how a person's life-patterns can mimic those around her. We humans look for patterns, after all, to help make sense out of our daily lives. For example, I have taken yoga regularly since 2003 and up'd the pace with Shaolin kung fu three times a week. My legs are so much stronger and overall, I'm noticeably more flexible. I also feel a bit more settled and see a groundedness in my daily life. I'm sleeping better and reacting to potentially-stressful situations with much less emotion. Even my stomach problems are almost all gone away.

A big test of this "new me" was the advent of a new job with a long commute down the I-95 corridor and onto the 695 Beltway during rush hour. Even during my interim, I felt centered and focused on what I could do - write a novel (check), dig and create a water garden (check), work on music and stained glass (check), and devote more time and loving energy to what matters most = my family and friends (continuous checking).

As the year wraps its arms around us to huddle in a moment of reflection, I have to add that I am one of the luckiest around. And to whomever and whatever's responsible, a big 'thank you.' Thank you for the music, the words, the smiles from my kids and husband, the encouragement from my extended family, friends and colleagues, and the ongoing feeling of hope that we, as a nation and a community, can come out into the light. Who knows? Maybe by March, we'll really get into the spirit of some real, down-home spring cleaning (and I'm speaking figuratively as well as literally).

Have a wonderful holiday season, and blessings to each of you throughout the year.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Embracing the hard work ahead

Change is not easy for most of us. The majority of public librarians I know prefer 'organization with flexibility,' so when a new direction is thrown our way it is both exciting and scary.

Fundamental elements of libraries - the foundations of classifications, cataloging, circulation policies - seem to be the fall-back for new adaptations. For example, librarians must weed out old, extraneous, and out-dated materials from their shelves (called "weeding") and have developed standards for their systems. This makes way for new books and materials and keeps their collections current and relevant. When the fairly recent introduction of electronic books came into libraries' collections, the development of weeding policies came out of the existing one. User services have adapted in many ways; from programs (such as taking digital photos and putting them on library websites) to library computer use and wifi access.

Change is essential for growth. The climate of our nation has also moved in this direction; last night's incredibly positive election results are indicative of the majority's voice. We have made a choice for change on many levels, and it has renewed hope in this librarian's heart.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Falling back to a time when...things were better?

It's finally here. Autumn is in full swing,

Halloween is over, swing states are leaning towards Senator Obama, and we've gone back an hour.

As we move into the deepening dark, Tuesday is a bright ray of hope for many Americans. Many have worked hard to endorse and support Barack Obama as the Presidential candidate of choice in ways that are certainly unprecedented. This election has found us united online to have a piece of the process, from small donations to blogging, telephone calls from our kitchen tables, to joining with others whom we had never met before to knock on doors and attend rallies. It has been an incredible experience and already has made history.

I know I will be holding my breath as the counts come in on Tuesday. I'm almost tempted to turn off the news and close my laptop since the tension will run high, but I am too hopeful of the outcome. Like the recent Phillies game, I will take the time to root for my home team. And I am even more charged up, fired up, and ready to go! since I believe it will be victorious. One never knows, though, and the precarious "voting machine" situation has me a bit worried.

For example, many electronic voting machines do not offer a paper receipt to ensure you are voting for who or what you intended when you pressed the button. Poll representatives do their best to assure us that what we press is recorded as exactly what it was labelled, but without something to take with us, some kind of read-out similar to what we receive when we make purchases, our vote is based upon trust. Then we hear stories of hackability...and wonder about those close races (Florida, Ohio 2004).

Obama's site offers a brief video about "How to Vote in Philadelphia." This is a great idea and will help those who access the video a way to prepare and to spread the word (the catch phrase is,

"Solid red light
'You're all right'."

In Philly, the voting machines are set up so that if a voter selects all Democratic candidates, and then selects Obama/Biden, the light (selection) will go out for the Presidential candidate. This could create some confusion; having an instructional walk-through can help!

To cover those who do not have access to this video, printable instructions are also available on the link above.

Voting machines differ from state to state, even precinct to precinct. Taking the time to somehow ensure, in whatever way you can, that your vote is tallied correctly is important. There will be volunteers at the polling places to help with this, and early voting this election has made a big difference. Not feeling rushed when entering the booth is also important. The least busy times are around 10 am and 2 pm.

Finally, here is a link to the music video called "Dear Mr. President," by Pink. It is reflective of what the last few years have been like for so many. It's a good reminder. If you are still undecided this may help.

* * * * * * * * * *

Good luck to each of us; experience the hope and, I believe, the glory of the moment with your loved ones and in good places. This is an important event that has already touched most Americans in beneficial ways. Hopefully it will get better from here on out!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Perspectives in this unemployed world

I have a long-time, dear friend who has hopped from job to job throughout her life. She and I differ in that she has had no real ambition to "further her educational degree" or "establish a career." Her jobs have been with delis and diners, cashiering and slicing cheeses and meats. In talking to her about it, and even encouraging (okay, pushing) her to go back to school for some kind of degree, she has always been politely steadfast about her lack of interest to go that route. The minimum wage she received for the hard work she performed was enough.

Sometimes I thought her decision was not really conscious, and wondered if a low self-esteem or a lack of any belief that she could do better (i.e., make more money per hour at a job that held more meaning for her) was holding her back. In all honesty, I think there is some truth to that. But 90 percent of it is something else.

My dear friend's son and his wife gave birth to their first child, a beautiful little girl, about four months ago. Mom and Dad, and now Baby, live with my friend and her partner. They have a small modular home snuggling up to the foothills of the Cascades in Washington, south of Seattle. They and their community enjoy the quiet, deeply dark nights of the forested mounds, the wildlife (elk included), the predictable elements of Western booted life around them. Their gas-guzzling pickup is a rusted relic (that nowadays can't be sold even if they wanted to), but she sighs and says it's fine, they'll find the money for enough gas to get around somehow. She always has, so I believe her.

She has been out of work probably as often as not. It doesn't seem to bother her too much. Each day goes by like any other and I wonder at the monotony and lack of,...well, what is it? I wonder. Or have wondered, until recently.

Recently I caught up with her on my cell phone (pausing for the weird cell phone echoes and odd lapses in connection that have become common-place so acceptable, but that's for another time). We live on opposite coasts so timing has been a challenge. But now that I am out of work my flexibility (and energy) has increased. I have time to indulge.

As we recounted what has been going on since I last saw her in June, I heard a coo and giggle and interrupted with, "Is that your granddaughter?"

She gave a short laugh and her whole tone changed when she said, "Yes." In this new voice that relayed what felt like love, comfort, pride, happiness, and peace she told me about her and that Mom and Dad go off to work so she watches Baby. That's her job. Mostly I heard contentment come through, and like so many times before when talking to my friend, I wondered.

I wonder about the completeness of a person, particularly a woman, who can find fulfillment in taking care of her children and children's children. It probably depends on the person and their path in life. There is so much controversy about this, from valuing the stay-at-home mother to discrediting her work ethics when she returns to the job fair some years later.

In France the birth population diminished so much that the government began offering substantial subsidies to entice women to have French babies. Stay at home and have a baby and make an income this way. Sounds good to me.

Back home, women juggle a lot. Look good, be the business professional, the excellent mother, the sexy, caring wife, the home-maker, organizer, blah blah blah. You've heard it before. The point of this blog is that I am trying to be content the moment I wake up in the morning without an office outside my home and a paycheck from somewhere else (and benefits, did I mention that?). I struggle with my ambition and sense of purpose, feeling lost without stacks of cataloged books and databases and patrons to help. I am working on a novel and that is good. I write these blogs (I have three) and network, and that is keeping my mind going. I'm applying for jobs as they come up, and I'm beginning to find appeal in areas outside librarianship but in the widening circle of education and social services. Not retail, not yet! Argh!

Help me, Mr. Wizard, I think sometimes and then berate myself (pounding my fist on my forehead) since I know, I know I am the one that will help me. And I am no "Mister."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Unemployed Librarians

The economic turmoil has touched every household in some way and in varying degrees, from the price of oil affecting gas, heating costs, food prices, and other commodities to the job situation. I'm talking about employment figures.

I've been without a paycheck for almost two months now. Although I can still afford to feed my family and take martial arts classes and get my hair done, I have pared back in other ways. As most of us have done, based upon the "shopping stats" and the effect of a cooling consumerism trend.

I am a librarian, and although I am out of work I still qualify to keep that title. I've earned it and I'm proud of it (no matter what E. says). A librarian without a library is not a comfortable picture, though. I've been trained and have dedicated years to helping patrons in many ways, and I'm out of that mainstream, up the dry creek to search for a new position. Jobs are scarce, especially where I live. (Moving is not an option.)

Experience the jobless world sometime. It can make people crazy, I'm sure. I am fortunate to have a way to comfortably get by, but my family is now without health/medical insurance. I've been used to this padding and when it is shed it makes me feel exposed. If I was dependent upon my salary to feed my family and pay the bills, I think I would do like a half-sister of mine did - that is, give up library work and find something. She works in retail.

Lucky me.

There is a strange tang when I meet someone and am asked, "What do you do?" When I say, "I am a librarian and a mother," I am usually met with, "Oh? Where do you work?" Then it gets awkward. "Well, up until recently..." But what happens is the behind the scenes judgment -
becomes the label. And our culture values employment like a piece of our identity in society. It is a standing, a statement to our credibility and how much we are respected (or should be). If I state I am a VP of a bank, I would get seven stars, I believe. If I said, "Teacher," I'd get three or four, depending on the school. "Unemployed," and I get maybe one because I am a degreed librarian.

I'm sure you understand this rating system. In America, we use it everyday to qualify and set us apart, as well as to establish the cliques and memberships.
"I belong"
is a powerful feeling. Being outside that circle is a difficult place.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Real Life Librarian in a Non-Existant Place

We have lives other than shelves and books, other than due dates and patron privacy rights. I typically work about 60 to 70 hours a week and justify this to my family by saying I can work from home.

But is it because I work from home that I have longer hours? I feel like the new mother whose days are a blur.

I remember way back when, my first word processing job on a Wang. I sat there and looked at the blinking cursor, thinking how perfect my papers would be. No more "Whiteout" - no more cutting with scissors and pasting with, well, tape actually. I could produce three or five really good pieces of work in a day, but with that computer and all its editing features, I would be able to do this with a lot less headache.

And then reality set in. The 'labor saving' device turned out to be a way to produce even more in a day. Now the expectation is to complete ten papers. Now we crank out in double time.

My library work follows along the same path, but I smile when I write that because this is a job that "has more meaning" for me. It's a good job; I'm helping in my small way the fight for information literacy and access to information. I'm helping to elevate the common view of librarianship by engaging in a new type of information professional.

And yet, I still have to take care of life matters, just like everyone else. My cat has cancer, my faucet leaks, laundry is stacking up and I should get to the grocery store soon. I was out mowing at 7am (with a quiet reel mower) so I could log in by 8am. I often work until 9 or 10 at night except on Wednesdays when I drag, kick, or somehow motivate myself to get to my weekly yoga class. The whining stops here.

I am tired, I think that's all. I appreciate this work, and nowadays I have a sense that I better appreciate that I have a job. Honestly I am just trying to figure out my place in a place that doesn't exist. I am searching for an understanding of something that I think is beyond me, this job, this career, and extends into our culture of labor in the U.S.

Back on earth, the 24-hour day swirls by and then it's August. I'm glad for my family and yes, for this challenging job and the fact that I am a real librarian (whatever that means to each of us). I'll turn around again and find that it's February; cold and dark and I'll trudge along trying to keep a smile even when no one sees me. For here, in the cyber world, I am often faceless. My words float on a screen because my fingers tapped this laptop's keyboard. Some of the letters on this keyboard are so worn from use that they are blank.

Let's keep this in mind when we work online - that we are real, we have substance, and lives behind the screens we access. Connections are to be made, but they are only cohesive if we have given a bit of effort to engage in a personalized way. I hope this comes through!

Friday, June 13, 2008

CourseFeed - classrooms through social networkings

From Blogger in May 2008:

CourseFeed makes online learning social. Students go to class for all kinds of reasons – to hang out with friends, to get a degree, and to learn – probably in that order. As more and more instruction goes online the “real” classroom experience is left behind. ...


and in June 2008: