Cycling For Libraries 2014

Photo Credit: Flickr User Cycling For Libraries -

Photo Credit: Flickr User Cycling For Libraries –

I’m excited to say that I have signed up to participate in Cycling For Libraries this year! It’s really the best library conference I have ever attended because it combines all the things I love in life: libraries, advocacy, friends, and cycling. This year’s route is from Montpellier to Lyon, which is 470km ( or about 292 miles). I’ll be joined by about 100 other international librarians and we’ll be stopping at libraries along the way. This event serves two purposes, it’s a great learning opportunity and it also is an advocacy project.

Each participant is asked to focus on a theme or an issue and to get inspiration from others, or from some of the library visits along the trip. I’m focusing on library outreach because in the next year or so, this is going to be a large part of my job duties. I hope to learn more about creative outreach and see what others do. You can read my profile  and the others on the cyc4lib website.

People often ask how far we cycle in a day, and how you get a bike over there. For this trip, the longest distance in a day is 90km which is about 56 miles. We don’t go too fast but training before you go is probably a good idea. If you don’t want to bring your bike for the tour, there’s usually a bike rental option, which is what I am doing this year. It saves me the hassle of trying to deal with bringing my bike overseas. Some day I’d like to bring my own bike for a tour, it’s really made for it, but it just didn’t work out this year.

Anyway, I’ll be trying to post pictures on my Instagram account and tweet my random thoughts on Twitter if you happen to want to follow along. Or just check the #cyc4lib hashtag!

Au revoir!




How do I sound less like a robot? Cover letters with impact.

Anyone else out there on the job market? If you have ever tried to find a full-time library job, you probably understand how difficult and emotional it can be. Sometimes I wonder how helpful it is when you’re obsessively trying to find a job to read all the career articles that talk about everything you’re doing wrong. So, this post isn’t going to focus on what NOT to do, there are plenty of those. Here’s a list of some useful/constructive ones:

I’m not sure what a very terrible cover letter looks like, but judging from what many people say, don’t do the copy and paste thing. Also tailor your cover letter! Yes, that’s all and good – I think most of us should know that by now. What I personally struggle with is addressing all the key points of the job ad, but NOT sounding like a robot. I’ve gotten good at saying “You want a,b, and c, here’s how I have a,b,and c.” but maybe that’s not good enough. It doesn’t necessarily show my actual excitement about the job, or any glimpse into my personality. I found that this example of a great cover letter highlights both her qualifications, and her personality. I have read this cover letter and gone back to re-read it many times. The writer is so smooth and confident! How can I be like her? Well, everyone’s personality is different so I’ve tried to find something that works for me.

I still struggle with adding who I am to the cover letter because I feel like there’s a lot at stake, and maybe they won’t like my sense of humor. On the other hand, you don’t get much of a chance to show employers who you are and why they should talk to you. By making it at least interesting for them, perhaps they will continue to read on.

I also wanted to share this list of Juicy, Proactive, Kick Ass CV keywords. I found it somewhere, but can’t find the original article. Feel free to use these!

Juicy, Proactive, Kick Ass CV keywords

LibDay8 Day 2

Avery studies postmodernism.

I can haz reading?

Yesterday, I was an intern and a graduate student. Today, I’m a librarian and a graduate student. Okay, so I’m probably always a million things at once, but who’s counting anyway? Today was really out there, let’s see if I can recap all of the things I did. First off, when I woke up this morning I walked out to my cat reading a book! He’s so smart. If only he could recap. He’s reading Frederic Jameson’s Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, by the way.

8:00 am – Get to work and check email. Turns out my director would like me to help her with her presentation for an adjunct faculty conference next month. I had submitted my own proposal, but I never heard back. Now I’m helping my boss with hers, although I’m not sure what she has in mind. New motto for the year, “Roll with it!”

9:00 am – Look over the presentation for tomorrow’s Education library instruction session. They’re working on a scientific inquiry project and so they’re coming in to learn about how to search library databases. It’s a one-shot instruction session, which can be limiting – also, I don’t know anything about their topic. Like I said earlier, “roll with it!” and “fake it til you make it!”

10:00 am – Start my virtual chat reference shift. I spent about 20 mins with another student in Amherst, helping her find resources on medical assisting. Virtual reference is hit or miss in my experience. Sometimes, the student disconnects before we’ve even started the reference interview. Today was a success and she was able to find enough info to get started on her research project. Win!

11:00 am to 12:30 pm – Eat lunch and finish ordering some books from Amazon. I had a cart full of books that other librarians had requested so I needed to finally get that in. We don’t always buy from Amazon, it just so happens that some of these books are older so I can’t get them through our usual, and kind of unreliable (ahem) vendor.

12:30 to 3:00 pm –  Reference desk shift! These desk shifts vary from day to day. I helped several people with the scanner that is on the copy machine. Usually I don’t have to help as many people with that. Reference librarians have to do it all, help people print and answer research questions.

I helped one student who came in with a question that totally stumped me!
He came in wanting journal articles on the history of the $2. Turns out, I had a hard time getting the type of info that he wanted. Historical info exists on the web, but I had no luck finding anything in our databases. We also struck out on books in the collection. Finally, I had to get his email and ask if I could get back to him later that afternoon. Turns out, the public library down the street has several books on the history of U.S. currency so I gave him that info, as well as stuff from the U.S. Treasury page. Bonus points for people who can find some good info on the $2 that’s not a shady web page.

Another student came in asking for a particular fiction title. She’s been in almost every day asking for it. Who ever took out our one copy still hasn’t returned it. I finally asked her where she lived and found a public library very close to her house. They had 5 copies of the book she’s been looking for. She was really grateful for the info and was going to head there to get the book. I work at an academic library located near a large public library. We don’t really carry a lot of fiction, so it makes sense to advertise their collection to our students.

3:00pm to 4:30pm – Started talking with the other librarian about making displays for Black History Month. She already started gathering the books. Our campus just opened a brand new building, so we had a faculty member come and take many of our books related to Black History. This means the books that would be perfect for OUR display are gone. That’s ok though, we work with what we have. I also found a treasure trove for displays. Apparently, a former librarian at my work used to be in charge of displays and had a cabinet full of supplies but no one told me about it. Good to know!

4:30 pm to 6:00 pm – Drive to school, traffic is crazy because Super Bowl is in my city this year. Ahh! Yes, I’m really scared. Things are going to get crazy.

6:00 to 9:00 pm – I have my Education of Info Users class. We talked about active learning and critical thinking. Yay! All important things to bring into info lit sessions. I’m still working on my classroom pizazz. This class generated enough brain food for future posts, so I’m going to save it until then. I will say this now: if you’re in library school, I encourage you to go to different libraries, outside your interests. I work in an academic library, all my jobs have been academic, but I go to public libraries and I pay attention to what they’re doing. Pay attention, and you can learn a lot.

Well, this was a really long post! See how much my days can vary?

Day 1 of #libday8

I participated in #libday7 over the summer and am excited to do it again. Since then, I have gotten a new job with more responsibilities, and I’m interning at the lovely Indianapolis Museum of Art this semester. I’m in a strange, transitory place in my life where I am part information professional, part MLS student. Hopefully, as I blog my activities this week, the range of experiences I deal with on a day to day basis show through. Today wasn’t a very library heavy day in terms of work, but I did spend most of my day pondering library related things.

9:00 am – Get to the museum and discuss what projects need to be done today. The library director mentions that a volunteer who does copy-cataloging got a FT job and won’t be able to volunteer anymore. She wants to find someone who can do the cataloging. I ponder this for awhile.
10:00 am – Start re-classifying some art books from Dewey to Library of Congress. This is the main project for the day.
12:30 pm – IT guy comes and sets up my museum email. After I get logged in, I see that I have no emails at all, so the librarian sends me a nice link to the Kitten Covers.

1:00 pm – Head to the university to have lunch with the BF.

The rest of my afternoon, I worked on a job application and pondered about starting a library school support group. Job applications are a lot of work and there are times I wish I could talk to my peers about the process honestly and not be scrutinized. Many tweeps suggested NMRT as the place to go for support, and generally I do agree. However, there are times when I need more personal support, which is why I’m grateful for my friends. Time are tough.


The value of list-servs

Which is better? In the age of social media, many people groan at the idea of list-servs. Email mailing lists are so old-school/out of date and yet they’re so prevalent in library land. I was talking to my librarian friend about them and which ones we subscribe to, then realized what a librarian thing list-servs are. ILI-L, NMRT, RUSA, the list (ha, ha) goes on! You can pretty much find a list-serv that fits your interests. It’s always interesting to me to see the varying levels of netiquette and opinions, depending on which list you look at.

Why pay attention?

My first list-serv was ARLIS/NA (art libraries). Seeing the types of requests for articles and reference questions those librarian got gave me an idea of what their typical day might look like. It was an easy way to get a window into their world. It was also the lack of job postings on the list-serv that made me realize that I needed to widen my scope and gain more general skills. More recently, I added a few more to follow and I get so many interesting calls for papers, proposals, job posts, and general questions (followed by email conversations). These are opportunities that don’t necessarily circulate on twitter or other social media outlets. You can also get ideas for instruction or programming that you can apply at your own workplace. It’s a great way to pick people’s brains and see what’s being done at other places.

Personally, I feel more clued in to professional activities by spying on these list-servs. I do get a ton of information from social media too, but it’s not always the same stuff. This is a lot of information for one person to sift through! I filter my list-serv emails so that they skip my inbox and go straight into folders. That way I can check on them when I have time and not feel overwhelmed.

What not to do…

I did mention varying levels of nettiquette. I’ve been surprised to see some of the things people say on these lists.

  • Please don’t email the entire list for instructions on how to unsubscribe. There are instructions on the ALA Mailing List website. Also, as a librarian (or future librarian) we should all be able to follow instructions. Think of it as doing a reference transaction with yourself.
  • Don’t bad mouth the profession and potential places to work on the list. The library world is actually quite small and you don’t want a bad reputation. If you are employed and you’re bad mouthing another institution, that looks bad too. Honestly, I’ve seen these dramatic email chains circulate.
  • Don’t get caught up in the drama. It goes hand in hand with the previous point.

Will list-servs disappear in the near future? I have no clue, but it’s a great place to hear about some insider info.

Newer Cards!

New Cards

Psychedelic Kitten!

I made some mistakes the first time I made myself some personal cards. The biggest mistake I made was putting a current job title on there. I had heard from others that you shouldn’t put MLIS candidate on there since you’ll graduate sooner than you know it. My boyfriend who is a photoshop whiz told me that I should put a current job on my card because people will want to know what I do. Well, I got a new job, and now my other cards are outdated. Boo! I actually have official cards from my new job so I felt no need to recreate that job title for my personal cards. The other mistake I made with my old cards is that I stuck a QR code on there, but no link to my blog. Um, that’s terrible! I didn’t have a smart phone at the time so if someone didn’t put a link on their card, I wouldn’t have a way to get to their website.

When I went to ALA, I was nervous because I wanted people to think I was “professional” and serious about librarianship. Yeah, try and tell that to the guy at Lafitte’s on Bourbon St. who is just about blacked out drunk. Just kidding! No one was that out of control, but the point is, it’s OK to have personality and flair. People will still know you are serious because first of all, you showed up to a conference on your own dime (if you’re a student) and because you’re talking to other people like you have something important to say. Your card is a chance to express yourself and build your own brand. That’s just how I feel anyway, I had a lot of fun making these and so did my boyfriend who had a great time creating renditions of crazy rainbow kittens.

And no blog post about business cards would be complete without this amazing/intense card swapping scene from American Psycho. If I start sweating when you hand me a card, you’ll know you’ve outdone yourself.

Burnt Out

Last month was really crazy busy for me. In general, I can handle a large workload but I think I’m officially burnt out. This is why I’m procrastinating and writing something for myself. Having a creative outlet for myself has always been important to me, even though it’s something I tend to forget. I feel terrible, I haven’t blogged in a couple of months, which basically feels like forever in the internet world. It’s not like I don’t have ideas for posts, I get them all the time. It’s all the other life stuff that gets in the way. I think Jessica Olin’s post on How to Avoid Burn Out is pretty great advice. I’m trying to take the time to listen to her advice. Hack Library School recently did a cross over post on Gradhacker (one of my new favorite blogs) about getting experience and not burning out, which I contributed to. I mostly wrote about how not to burn out, despite the fact that it’s too late for me. Kind of seems hypocritical for me not to listen to even my own advice. I’m learning from my mistakes. I also need to learn how to say no to volunteering (but I’m addicted).

In other general news, part of the reason why I’ve been so crazy busy is because I got a new job! My first professional position as a librarian! I’m a reference and instruction librarian at a community college. It’s part-time which is good in a way because I’m still in school full-time. I’ve been putting a lot of my skills I’ve learned in school to good use. Also, realizing that school does not prepare you for many things once you get to the job. You’re really expected to be able to hit the ground running. This is why I am a firm believer that all library school students should do internships. There are so many things I learned from doing an internship in library instruction that I couldn’t learn in school. Talking in front of your library school class is different from talking in front of a bunch of freshmen who don’t understand your library jargon. It’s been good for me to see where a lot of the students are in terms of how they understand the library and how to search for information. I’m also kind of shy so getting up and teaching has really pushed me to leave my comfort zone. Eventually, it will be easy right? That’s what I hope anyway.

Worlds colliding!

Two Worlds Colliding

My worlds are colliding!

When I had originally set up my twitter account, I had intended for it to be mainly for library related things. In my head, I wanted there to be a separation between my personal life, which I mainly kept on Facebook, and my student/professional life. Even after joining the HackLibSchool team, I didn’t befriend my co-editors right away on Facebook and I just interacted with them mostly on Twitter. Actually, many of my friends, even my classmates in real life don’t even know that I write for a blog, or have my own. Not that it’s a good thing they don’t know these facts about me, it just goes to show how separated I have been trying to keep my life; but now all those divisions are tumbling down.

I’m friending more librarians on my personal Facebook and I’m losing touch with some of my California acquaintances/friends. I spent a good part of yesterday questioning myself about what I thought constituted a friendship or a connection, and which of those are actually valuable to me. My professional and personal are quickly becoming intertwined and at first, that gave me pause. On the other hand, it might be a sign that I am actually transitioning into a profession. Some of the people who give me the most support in my academic endeavors are people that I have never met.

You know what? These connections mean more to me in many ways; but I can’t help but feel like I’m losing part of my past. I haven’t talked to some of my best friends in ages! These are ones who have known me for years, prior to library school, who supported my decisions to pursue this degree. This makes me sad, because I’m finding that the physical distance puts a strain on these friendships, but I also know that they’re not going anywhere. I am also looking forward to getting to know some of my newer friends that I’ve met at conferences, because I have many things in common with them, sometimes even more than people I have known for a long time or in real life. It’s actually refreshing to meet these folks because they make me feel more at home. I think as we move forward in our lives, our interests change and so do our friendships.

I think my issue was that before I had actually met some of my internet library friends in real-life, I thought it would be easy to keep a division between my two worlds. Once I actually got the ALA, relaxed, got over my anxiety of talking to strangers, I found it much easier to approach people. The Pumped Librarian put it best in her post-ALA wrap up, when she said that it’s better not to think of networking as networking, but rather hanging out with cool people in your profession (she says it a lot better, I’m just paraphrasing). Being at ALA basically felt like I was hanging out with my friends, even if technically, what I was doing could be considered networking. After all the awesome meet-ups, I got Facebook requests and also made some requests on my own. As a result, I’ve found that my worlds are crossing over and I’m having a harder time distinguishing professional from personal. Looking back on my initial segregation, I just feel silly about it.

At this point, I have decided that I need to come to terms with a few things in my life. First off, librarianship is now a HUGE part of my life and who I am. It’s not only a professional interest, but a personal passion, so anyone in real life who knows me needs to know this. Second, I’m not going to be anyone that I am not. At first, I didn’t know how to use twitter, I didn’t want to retweet Andrew WK because I was afraid it wasn’t “professional”. Whatever, if you don’t think he’s hilarious, something is wrong with you. Kidding aside,  I do understand the fine line between what’s inapproriate conduct and what’s acceptable. I will say, I find it boring to follow people on twitter who only tweet articles and never interact with other people. Twitter is one of the main reasons why I felt comfortable approaching people and introducing myself to them. It was easier to talk to people at ALA11 because I interact with them on Twitter. I will admit that my online presence has slowly become a better representation of who I am in real life. I know I’m capable of good work and am a pretty nice person, which I think that’s what will really shine through.  No more hiding, no more walls.