Why I Bike

ImageRiding your bike is fun, slightly dangerous sometimes, and good for the environment. In about a month, I’m going to take my first trip abroad to Amsterdam. From there, I’ll be participating in Cycling for Libraries where we’ll be riding bikes from Amsterdam to Brussels, stopping at libraries along the way. I am beyond stoked. We’ll also be stopping in Brugge for a day!


Ha! I couldn’t resist.

Cycling, seeing libraries, talking about libraries, and hanging out with 99 other library people sounds like a great vacation to me. In order to prepare, I’ve been riding my bike to work. I find it’s a lot easier to incorporate physical activity into my everyday life because I am lazy and wouldn’t do it otherwise.

As I commute to work on my bike, I’ve been reflecting on what I really enjoy about it. First, I value the quiet time that I get on the way to work. It’s just me and the road (and a bunch of cars), I get to think my thoughts and just be outside for awhile. The fresh air is nice before sitting in a freezing cold library all day. Is it the golden rule of all libraries to be freezing? Seems that way. Second, I get to work a lot faster on bike than on bus. Hard to beat that. Third, it’s just good for me physically and mentally. I feel a lot better by the end of the day. I’m sure the endorphins help.

It took me a while to acclimate to cycling in Chicago. I grew up in a mid-sized town in CA, where people really like cycling a lot. There are lots of bike lanes and not so many buses and cars. Chicago is a big city, I never saw myself as an urban cyclist, still don’t really. I rode my bike downtown once and was terrified of being run over by a double-decker tour bus. However, I just had to practice being on the road and remember that the same road rules apply here as they did in that mid-sized town. I’m doing okay! Now to practice riding with a large group…

I hope to have more updates as I venture on my trip. If anyone has tips on touring, riding in large groups, or places to check out in Amsterdam, I’m all ears.

Annie Pho:

The LIS Queen was so kind and asked to interview me for her blog. I’m reblogging her post here.

Originally posted on The LIS Queen:

What appeals to you most about being a librarian?
Many folks say that telling interviewers that you want to be a librarian because you love books is basically an interview suicide. Although I do love books, I actually wanted to become a librarian because I wanted to help people with their research. The most appealing to me about being a librarian is helping people and connecting them to the information that they seek.

I’m also glad to have found a profession where it is perfectly acceptable to love cats.

What program are you in? What’s your favorite and least favorite thing about your program?

I’m currently going to school at Indiana University – Indianapolis. I wrote a Hack Your Program Post on it if you want the full scoop. My favorite part of the program is all the opportunities within the city of Indianapolis to get hands on experience…

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Funny Library Love Notes

Post-It Notes

Just a note can brighten your day!

Last February, my library had a great campaign called I <3 the UL (university library). They had set up a poster board with a prompt that asked students and other patrons to write on post-it notes about what they loved about the UL and what changes they wanted to see. The latest project that I have been working on is cleaning up some of those post it notes. Some are totally hilarious and crack me up and some are genuinely very nice. I think this campaign did a good job of reaching out to the students and getting a good understanding of what they want and what they love about the library.

Here’s a sampling of what some people said they loved about the UL:

  • Single and ready to mingle (phone number)
  • Itchy eyes? Itchy eyes.
  • Library, I think you are sexy.
  • I <3 the UL
  • Free Stuff!
  • Any type of book of course! Yay intellectual freedom. ←(probably a SLIS student)
  • It’s cozy in there and it looks like there are enough comps. I love couches? <3<3<3
  • I come to you when I have no one else.
  • It’s my part-time house (UL)
  • The library is awesome! More people should use it.
  • Library, I am continually impressed with your generous helping attitude. I do wish to continue our mutual relationship. -Student

I hope that they do this campaign again next year, because I am getting a kick out of reading all these notes. I also want to add that many people wrote that they LOVE BOOKS (the paper kind!). Old habits die hard.

What do you love about your library? Anyone else have a similar marketing campaign?


New Cards!

So in my preparation for going to the ALA conference in New Orleans, I decided it was time for me to get some business cards. I’m not really a “business person”, but I know it’s important to network at conferences. I really had no clue what to put on my card, so I tried to keep it simple. Here it is:

Annie's Business CardI ordered them from Moo but I’m sure there are a ton of places to order cards.

Hug A Librarian Day!

In light of Hug a Librarian Day, I thought I’d take a moment to appreciate the role of the public library in my life. In recent years, I haven’t spent as much time in public libraries as I have in academic, but that isn’t to say that I don’t have a special spot in my heart for them. The public library is going through a shift in its role to the public. Some say that Google threatens the existence of the public library, others say it’s going to be a “third space”. I see it as a place to serve its community, for people to come and access whatever information they need.

I for one, am very grateful that my mom took me and my siblings to the library every week as kids. I developed a real love for reading because of those weekly trips. She’d just let me loose in the children’s section (probably to the chagrin of the librarians) and I would find a pile of books to take home that week. Seriously, she would leave me and my sister there sometimes while she went to the grocery store, but I guess she thought it was a safe enough place for us. In the public library setting, I can only imagine the many different hats librarians must wear. I appreciate the patience that the librarians had in helping me find information for my homework assignments, the awesome summer reading programs that rewarded us for filling our reading logs with mini-pizzas, and the safe, comfortable atmosphere in which I could roam the stacks and find new reading material.

The public library has played a special role in my development as a person; I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. This is my virtual hug to all the public librarians who provide wonderful services to their communities!

Be cool, stay in school?

During my application process to different library schools, one of the requirements of an application was to interview a librarian in a position that we were interested in. When I went to interview my librarian, I found out that she was also the head of the faculty department and was in charge of hiring. She told me that when I graduate I would be going up against people with Ph.D’s and years of experience to get jobs. She wasn’t cheerful or overly encouraging of my future endeavors. I walked away from that situation feeling slightly puzzled and discouraged, not understanding her attitude. Reflecting back on that, I realize that she was perhaps trying to dissuade me!

There’s this idea out there that people who don’t know anything about librarianship or technology should be weeded out of the programs. After reading this interesting post on dissuading some students to quit school , it got me thinking about the issues surrounding this. There’s plenty of opinion that some of these schools are guilty of being “degree mills” and are contributing to the flooding of the job market. There are too many graduates (well educated, and undereducated) and not enough jobs, which creates a terrible unemployment cycle for everyone. We’ve all heard it before. The dissuasion perspective suggests that those who don’t seem like library material should drop out, but I’m not sure I agree. I do think that if the course load was more difficult, people would just opt out of the program themselves; but I seriously don’t see how the work could be made more difficult without a complete overhaul of the library education system.

The other issue I have with the dissuasion mentality is that collaboration is such a key part of librarianship. I find it very hard not to help other students who are struggling. I want to help others if I can, it’s part of my nature and what drew me to this field. I’ve heard horror stories about other graduate programs where students deliberately try to sabotage each other because their field is so competitive. Has this field gotten to the point that people are so disheartened about the job market that interested students need to be discouraged?

It’s probably not necessary to talk someone out of the degree; but it could be helpful to at least have a realistic sense of the issues surrounding the library world. This is most likely what the librarian I had initially interviewed was doing, trying to give me a reality check. Instead of leaving students high and dry, a good dose of reality should be encouraged instead. Practical projects where students can observe and see what really happens in the library, might help the misguided by letting them see what skills are needed and what librarians actually do. Also, having provocative conversations in the classroom to allow for this kind of discourse helps open eyes, at least it did for me. For now, I don’t have any real solutions, but by sharing information and helping each other, we can add more value to this degree.

Borders Gone Bankrupt – So what?

Yesterday Borders announced that it was filing for bankruptcy, which seems like a sad day for the plight of the bookstore. If I remember correctly, Borders started out as a little bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan -no wait it has a history of corporate take-over and merges. With the increasing ebook sales  and this giant chain of bookstore suffering so much financially, people are asking themselves about the future of the book.

Oh no, my Borders is closing! What’s going to happen next? I see this as an opportunity for independent, local bookstores to shine. Honestly, people should try and support their local businesses before going to big-box chain stores like Borders or Barnes and Noble. Every time you buy your over-priced book from Borders, that’s money being taken away from your local economy. Every time you buy something from Amazon, that’s money not being reinvested on the local level. The interests of these giants are not really in the issues of the local town. You want to put a flyer for a local event? Maybe it’s against corporate policy to have non-approved items on display. The real concern about the implications of the failure of Borders was summed up in this Washington Post article “The fewer physical bookstores, the fewer physical books, the less real reading we’ll do.” Most likely, the indie bookstores are not going to have the e-readers and e-books and now those things can be conveniently downloaded, why would someone want to go anywhere else? That, I don’t have an answer for except to say “Go to the library!”

I’m not really trying to hate on Borders and sadly, I have to say that the city that I live in has NO independent bookstores that are worth browsing (that I have found). The best one we have is full of Friends of the Library book sale rejects, which is a shame. Many people here probably go to Borders or Barnes and Noble to buy books, or Amazon, so sometimes maybe there’s not much a choice. But if you have a choice and you absolutely have to buy the book, instead of checking it out for free at a library, then why would you not try to support your local bookstore?

Risky Business!

Before I moved to the midwest, I worked at a coffee shop in California as a slave to the bean. One of the regular customer’s wrote me a really nice card before I left for library school and in it he wrote “nothing great comes without risk”. Lately, these words have held a lot of weight in my mind. This semester, I’ve tried to kick my participation level in school into high gear and jam pack my week full of stuff to do. At the end of a 12 hour day in the library, I’m totally exhausted and when I go home, I procrastinate on homework by looking at library blogs. I’ve become so obsessive that my boyfriend told me “library, library, library = brain fry”, but I really can’t help it because I’m so excited by the possibilities.

The bigger looming question is : what is all this worth if I can’t apply it? What if I had taken a huge leap into going to school far away from my familiar resources and I fail? I know I’m not the only one who has these fears. I had spoken to another student who was hesitant to apply for a position because it was tenure-tracked. You have one chance to get it and if you don’t get tenure, you have about a year to find another job. At first, I was very surprised because I thought this person was very qualified for the position, but then I thought more of the reasoning. She was afraid of failure. There are so many people in the world who prefer to maintain a state of inertia, complacency because they’re afraid to try. Nothing makes me more sad to see people with intelligence and the potential to be great leaders not utilize those skills because they don’t see their worth.

As a group, librarians tend to be very helpful people, which includes helping each other (students too!) with professional development. This is what sets us apart from other disciplines, our model is service, so it’s natural to encourage each other, which is why I love the idea of hacklibschool – a site that’s by and for library students. The friends that I’ve made in library school are some of my biggest cheerleaders, they cheer me up when I am down and I do the same for them. The other thing we should keep in mind is to encourage risk taking, to do stuff that we’re not comfortable with (for more insight check this advice to students ).

I think it’s important to push each other out of our comfort zones, to take risks because “nothing great comes without risk”. So far, I’d say my experiences in school have been worth it.

Library School Too Easy?

Reading this post over at Agnostic, Maybe about the library school experience prompted a reflection on my own library school experiences so far. Currently, I’m in my second semester and in some ways, the classes are seem easy. At the same time, I also feel like I’m behind in comparison to some of my classmates. I know that programs and campuses differ demographically, but at my campus, we have a lot of commuters and working professionals. Many of my classmates are already working in a library while working on their MLS, but I came into my program with just a tiny bit of library work experience, so compared to them, I feel behind. What really caused me to panic was reading this Annoyed Librarian post on library schools, especially the comments from recent graduates who were bitter and pissed off that their degree has done nothing for them. The whole reason why I’m here is so that I can get a job, not just drown in debt. Seriously, I freaked out and wrote an email to the Newly Employed Librarian blog. I spend a lot of time on the internet, it’s my best friend.

What if library school is too easy? There are those who are happy that it is and those who are bored. The way I see it, the MLS is part theory and part professional training. Much of the education is about applying a skillset to the profession, like learning resources for reference, or learning how to catalog. To get the most out of your education you have to take the time to invest your interests into the projects assigned and take advantage of what resources the school has to offer. I have classmates who do the minimum and get the same grades as me, but at least I know that I contemplated how some of these assignments can apply to my areas of interest, thus, getting what I want out of the class. Taking advantage of opportunities that the school offers is another way to supplement this degree. For example, I am currently participating in a mentorship program at my school, for no credit or funding. I’m doing this because I saw it as a good way to get an inside peek at what an academic librarian does. It’s very time consuming and some days, I think I lose money because I have to take time off work; but what I’ve learned from my mentor has been invaluable. Just through shadowing her, I’ve learned things about librarianship that just aren’t taught in the classes, things that aren’t even mentioned, like what is expected of you once you get a job. This is why I’m very glad to have her as a mentor and am doing this.

I think it’s just impossible for the MLS to single-handedly prepare us for everything the real world will expect of us. As some of the comments from the Agnostic, Maybe post suggest, there are a lot of things you just learn on the job, like having patience with angry patrons or trouble shooting the printer (again). The best thing to do is to be immersed in the library world, read tons of library blogs and articles, volunteer (which by the way can sometimes land you a job), work or intern at a library, be creative and develop other transferable skills. I think there’s plenty of space for improvement in the MLS program but we have to be the innovators.