Month: July 2013

Cossette’s unified philosophy of librarianship

Yesterday, Matthew Ciszek posted on Cossette’s essay, Humanism and Libraries: An Essay on the Philosophy of Librarianship, translated by Rory Litwin. It’s been a few years since I read Cossette’s text and admittedly my knowledge of it is a bit rusty, but I remember thinking that he fell into the same trap as Ranganathan, the same trap that many thinkers in our field continue to fall into: trying to define a “unified philosophy of librarianship.” Cossette argues that by creating a unified philosophy of librarianship, we could bring “faith and certitude” to our actions as librarians, inspire professional unity, and give us a raison d’etre for what we do.

The longer I work as a librarian, the more I begin to believe that a unified philosophy simply isn’t possible given the diverse communities different libraries serve (public university, private college, city public, state repository, middle school, corporate archives, etc.) and, in fact, the pursuit of such may do more damage to our causes (esp. in raising public awareness, connecting our services to institutional goals, and telling our story to stakeholders) than good. What Ciszek argues is more sensible: an empirical approach that looks at what we are doing and explains why it is important to society. But I would add that this only works externally when the emphasis is placed on our society.

My hope is that through an empirical look at generalizations like the Five Laws we can begin the work of creating new theory, grounded in the social study of the phenomenon of libraries and librarianship, and philosophy that seeks to answer why what we are doing is important to society. Let’s start of renaissance of thought in librarianship and move past Ranganathan. He’s served us for almost 60 years, but it’s time we move the profession forward. Let’s resurrect the library theorist.

Of course, I’m reading my own views into Ciszek. His goal in the above paragraph is to argue for a reemergence of the library theorist (hear hear!), not a specific methodological approach. With that said, there is a groundswell of discussion happening now, mostly surrounding the New Librarianship class and mostly happening on Twitter and in blog comments. So if the future of library theory interests you, join the discussion!

My ALA 2013 schedule

The 2013 ALA Annual Conference begins this week and I’ll be on my way to Chicago in the next few days. As is customary among Libloggers, I’ve posted my schedule below. Safe travels to everyone traveling this week. I hope to see you there!


Friday, June 28

02:20pm: Arrive at Chicago Midway

03:00pm – 10:00pm: Check in, Registration, Opening events, etc.

10:00pm – 12:00am: Reception

10:00pm – 04:00am: ALA Dance Party 4 (Ay Chiwowa, 311 W Chicago Ave.)


Saturday, June 29

08:30am – 10:00am: ULS Executive Committee Meeting (Hyatt Regency Chicago – Gold Coast)

10:30am – 11:30am: ACRL New Members Discussion Group (Hyatt Regency Chicago – Columbus CD)

01:00pm – 02:30pm: Forum on Revised Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (McCormick Place Convention Center – N132)

03:00pm – 05:00pm: Beta Phi Mu General Assembly (McCormick Place Convention Center – N230b)

04:30pm – 06:00pm: Busting Out of the Cubicle: Your Creative Self at Work (McCormick Place Convention Center – S102bc)

05:30pm – 07:00pm: ACRL ULS/CLS Social (Plymouth Grill, 327 South Plymouth Court)

07:30pm – 09:30pm: ALA Newbie and Veteran Tweetup (Elephant and Castle, 185 North Wabash Avenue)

09:00pm – 12:00am: ALA Afterhours EveryLibrary and Librarian Wardrobe Party (Blue Frog’s Local 22, 22 E. Hubbard)


Sunday, June 30

09:15am – 10:00am: Conversation Starters: Achievement unlocked: Motivating and assessing user learning with digital badges (McCormick Place Convention Center – S102d)

10:30am – 11:30am: Conference Program Planning–Las Vegas 2014 Committee Meeting (Hyatt Regency Chicago – Columbian

01:00pm – 02:30pm: ACRL Information Literacy Web Site Committee (Hyatt Regency Chicago – Wrigley)

03:00pm – 05:00pm: ALA Website Advisory Committee Meeting (McCormick Place Convention Center – N134)

06:00pm – 08:00pm: GLBTRT Social, $5 suggested donation (Ann Sather Restaurant, 909 W Belmont Ave)


Monday, July 1

08:00am – 08:45am: Conversation Starters: Tumblarian 101: Tumblr for Libraries and Librarians (McCormick Place Convention Center – S102d)

01:00pm – 02:30pm: ALA Conversation Roundtable (Hyatt Regency McCormick (HRM), Meeting Suite 5)

05:30pm – 07:00pm: Chicago Showdown: ALA Battledecks IV (McCormick Place Convention Center – N229)

08:00pm – 12:00am: Reception

09:00pm – 2:00am: Que(e)ry: Leather Bound in Chicago, $10 suggested donation (Ann Sather Restaurant, 909 W Belmont Ave)


Tuesday, July 2

01:00pm: Flight out of Chicago Midway

I am a librarian

It’s self-affirmation Friday here. This is for all the MLIS students, the part-timers, the contract employees, the assistants, the staff-not-faculty, the not-yet-employed, and all the other library workers who go above and beyond their call to service.

I am a librarian.

I teach students how to discover value in information resources and in doing so help them to recognize the value of their own thoughts.

I stay at the reference desk until every question is fully answered and only then do I take my lunch break.

I keep a copy of Dublin Core next to a copy of the customer service manual because I believe metadata is a service.

I double the Rule of 3.

I advocate for policy changes that increase diversity, recognize and celebrate alterative perspectives, and make the workplace a safer and more equal environment.

I stay late on a Friday because that one colleague needed someone to cover her instruction class at the last minute. And I do it off the clock.

I make students laugh at access policy jokes.

I assess everything.

I develop research guides for students not because they are requested, but because they are helpful (and I really love creating bibliographies).

I spend my breaks reading through virtual chat logs to stay up to date on student assignments.

I test each new product the library purchases. And I always fill out the feedback form.

I share new ideas for outreach because our patrons are an ever-changing organism. And I know library services won’t simply sell themselves.

I always stop and talk to the student with the confused look on her face.

I assume everyone who comes to the circulation desk is faculty.

I never miss an opportunity to make students feel welcomed and loved.

I rock professional library conferences.

I have an MLIS.

I am a librarian because I have librarian skills. I am a librarian because I have library values. I am a librarian because I have library passion.

My job description does not define me. The title on my office door does not define me. My salary does not define me. My institution does not define me.

I am a librarian. And always have been.

::drops mic::

I fight for the user

I was delighted to find the following email in my inbox the other day. From ALA’s president Barbara Stripling:

ALA is saddened by recent news that the government has obtained vast amounts of personal information and electronic communications of millions of innocent people. The extent of the personal information received by the government is very troubling. Those of you who have been long-time members of ALA know that we have always argued that provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act encroach on the privacy expectations of library users. Worse, the surveillance law erodes our basic First Amendment rights, all while undermining the very fabric of our democracy […]

We need to restore the balance between individual rights and terrorism prevention, and libraries are one of the few trusted American institutions that can lead true public engagement on our nation’s surveillance laws and procedures. Libraries have the tools, resources and leaders that can teach Americans about their First Amendment privacy rights and help our communities discuss ways to improve the balance between First Amendment rights and government surveillance activities. And patrons are ready to learn about their privacy rights from their libraries.

How academic libraries can join the fight for privacy has been buzzing around my head of late. Thankfully, Stripling’s email also links to some helpful resources: the Choose Privacy Week website and a Moderator’s Guide [pdf]. I haven’t given this enough thought to craft a decent post, but three things immediately come to mind as actions academic librarians can take (in addition to hosting discussion forums):

1) Prominently display a link to your library’s privacy statement and data retention policies on the homepage. Wait, you don’t have one? Well, now is a better time than any to get started!

2) Know your university’s policies on user data and find out what third parties (esp. email platform providers) have access to it.

3) Start talking to electronic resources vendors about how they use your patrons’ data. What do they collect? What is their retention policy? What other third-parties have access to that data?

I don’t imagine I’ll have many discussions at the reference desk about protecting user privacy and data, but that doesn’t mean I can’t fight for it. More thoughts on this later. Happy Friday!

Had a lovely day. Winding down with Jeopardy and the family. I’m a 60-year-old man.

Unexpected benefit of ukulele callouses: I can touch hot food when cooking and not feel it. Playing sax and piano never gave me that.