September 30, 2009

Health Care Reform Explained!

I don't know about you, but I have been keeping an eye on this debate since the election last November. There is a world of misinformation on this issue. Finally, the New York Times has published a clear and concise article regarding the debate, the bill, and all of the issues.

September 27, 2009

Public Library Apps

Just the other day I was sitting in a conference entitled The Future of Libraries (5.0). I was expecting to find out about new emerging technologies. While emerging tech was merely a side note in this otherwise informative seminar - I did discover a few new ways that libraries are utilizing technology - I was told mostly about how libraries are maintaining relevance during recessions because they are helping patrons find work. Ironic, eh?

Between speakers, I would check my email and Facebook (when the broadband would allow) on my iPhone and thought "wouldn't it be nice if public libraries could develop applications for iPhone?" Shock of shocks, DCPL already has. Of course this advancement is being met with some criticism. For instance, is this development an essential service for the average public library user? Does it serve to deepen the digital divide? Most librarians can't even afford the iPhone... Nonetheless, it is a wonderful tool and something to consider for future library users. Perhaps there is no urgent need for it now, but what about later when babies will be born with bottles in one hand and a cell phone in the other? At the very least, it is good to know that the technology is out there. As with most technology it will become less expensive and eventually available to most people. Hmmm?

September 21, 2009

Twilight: Why I Felt I Needed to Read it and Why I Feel I Shouldn't Have

Though Stephanie Meyer's Twilight books may be losing steam, the controversial vampire saga is gaining momentum as the second movie, New Moon, is slated to hit the box office in November. While I was late to hop on this bandwagon, I am comitted to finishing reading the series before Breaking Dawn hits theaters. Whether I can force myself to stomach the remaining volumes is doubtful.

Although I am eager to forge a role in any facet of librarianship, Youth Services remains a bit of a dream job for me. The outlook for job prospects in any area of public librarianship in California is poor to say the least; however, I like the idea of program planning for young adults. I am a firm believer in the fact that libraries have a responsibility to create areas for teens to grow their literacy skills. I feel a kinship to this population of the library, as I am still interested in, well, kid stuff. I love graphic novels and teensploitation movies and admittedly The Real World among other things, but I'm having a difficult time swallowing Twilight. As far as I'm concerned, it's just bad. Period. But I'm willing to elaborate as defaming the popular series is considered sacrilege among many teens.

Getting right down to it, why are these bloody books so lengthy? As far as I'm concerned Meyer could have kept the books each to 300 pages max. The majority of the novels (well, Twilight and New Moon anyway since those are the two I have finished) have Bella pining away for Edward without much action. She's infatuated with him, we get it, now move on. The movie trailers would have us believe the books are teeming with action. In fact, I'd put my money on the fact that the directors leave out most of the text of New Moon and focus on the good stuff that does happen: The Volturi, jumping off cliffs, people turning into wolves, etc. This could have been summed up by Meyer over a few pages, but she just goes on and on. And what does she go on and on doing? Well, supposedly she is building this unparalleled love story to match those of the ages. References to Wuthering Heights and (gasp!) Romeo and Juliet are common throughout the novels. Um, having a B.A. in English, I've read many an epic love story, and well, this is not one of them. The relationship is too simple and ordinary. The characters are overly broad, bordering on vacuous. Even though the books are long, the story lacks meat.

Another reason I don't enjoy Twilight is because Edward is creepy. He's creepy, but not in the way Meyer wants him to be creepy. He's not creepy in a sexy vampire way like Anne Rice's vampires. He's creepy in the way clowns are creepy. Let me break it down for you: Bella is 17 years-old when Twilight begins. Ostensibly, Edward is "17" too; however, Edward has been 17 for a lot longer than Bella. I think his actual age is around 96. I know I'm not the only one out there who finds their relationship deeply disturbing. Some people go as far as saying the relationship is abusive. I agree. This relationship is one of the most manipulative and co-dependent in the history of literary relationships. It's the perfect recipe for disaster. You have Bella, a young, naive, teenager with zero ego integrity (yeah, I said it). She has never been in a serious relationship before. You also have Edward, a 96 year-old man masquerading as a really, really good-looking 17 year-old. Oh yeah, he's also a blood-sucking vampire who is well-connected to other blood-sucking vampires. And he's RICH! It's fairly obvious early on in the story that this average 17 year-old with zero personality is going to fall for the manipulative, really, really good-looking vampire. Actually, she has no chance in resisting him: He's a vampire. Admittedly, this relationship could have been exploited artistically to make the story gripping, interesting, and an exploration of the human condition. Bella could have triumphed over Edward's abuse and emerged a feminist heroine; however, Meyer decided to pursue the avenue she did, so instead we have a shallow, abusive relationship and wish fulfillment. Bravo.

My next issue with Twilight might have more to do with Meyer's lack of writing chops than with the actual novels. This might just be me, but the blending of the supernatural world with that of our own is horribly weak. The worlds are too different. Meyer spends a lot of time placing Bella in a normal teenage environment. The majority of the "action" is spent having Bella attend classes at high-school. Why? I guess the purpose is for her to meet Edward. Why? Why is this old dude even going to school? Why are these Cullens trying to attain a normal existence? It seems a little bizarre that these super interesting, intense, beautiful vampires want to spend the majority of their eternities attending a small-town high-school. I know if I were a vampire and knew I had an eternity to spend on the Earth I wouldn't be going to high-school. Especially not in some nowhere town in the Pacific Northwest. It's a really silly notion and the story would have been better if she had left this element out completely. As a result, the novels drag on in the ordinary realms of existence and exhaust 500+ pages. Furthermore, Meyer doesn't do "normal" very well. Is it just me or are these characters lamer than lame? I don't know too many teenagers that say things like "I'm the vampire girl" or descriptively narrate their lust using the word "dazzled". As in BeDazzled? NERD ALERT!

That pretty much sums up my loathing. I'm sure I could spend more time cutting up these terrible books, but then you might think you were reading something by Meyer and be tempted to hate on me. Feel free to do that though, but I'm pretty set in my opinion. At the very least, I'm reading these dreaded things cover-to-cover in the hope that I can one day engage a new reader in the discourse of literature. I know it's been said: At least kids are reading again.

Maintaining Opinions and Being Diplomatic as a Librarian

Now that I've become a little more public about my blog and more people will be locating it, I'm wondering if I should try to be a little more diplomatic about certain things. For instance, my feelings about Twilight. Is it a good idea to have such a strong opinion about something that so many people love? In other words: Is it very librarian of me?

We, librarians, are supposed to uphold the Library Bill of Rights and Intellectual Freedom. I don't think my opinions make it difficult for me to adhere to these standards, but they do make it tough for me to promote the reading of certain books. Let me make one thing clear: I think people should be able to read whatever they want. I do not subscribe to censorship in any form; however, I think people should be critical when reading what they choose to read. Critical reading enhances the experience of reading for pleasure. Not only can you gain enjoyment out of what you read, forming opinions about what you're reading enables you to engage with the literature more. This allows you to have discussion about what you read. Discussions are hopefully a little deeper than: "I'm team Jacob because he's so hot". Rather, "I'm team Jacob because he seems to have Bella's best interests in mind and truly protects her. For example, he seems to care about her because he tries to keep her away from Edward and he's not a creepy stalker who watches her when she sleeps." Or, rather than "I think Bella is cool because hot guys like her", hopefully there's, "I'm worried that Bella has no ego integrity because she seems to define herself by the men in her life. For example, she's one way when Jacob is around and she's another way when Edward is around. Also, she doesn't seem very smart because she crashed her motorcycle and jumped off a cliff so Edward would come back. That's pretty stupid."

Hopefully by now you get what I mean. When handing over a copy of Twilight, to a teenage girl, I'm hoping she's thinking about all this other stuff when she reads it and not just "The actors that play the characters from Twilight are so dreamy and I'm going to be just like Bella (the most anti-feminist character of all time)." Rather, I hope she engages with the characters a little more than that and maybe questions why they do the things they do. Some librarians are struggling with the idea of allowing The Twilight Saga on their shelves at all. Make no mistake, I would hand the books over to a teenage that wanted to read them, but when getting the books back I'd have to ask if she liked them and why. Does this break any of our time honored library rules? Or am I being a hypocrite because I hope that readers will think critically about what they read? And around and around we go.

September 16, 2009

Why I am "Undefined"?

What makes me the "Undefined" Librarian? Well, there are a number of things. The first: I have trouble committing to one area of Librarianship. It is such a broad profession and there are so many things to focus on. Because I am a "newly minted" librarian there is no reason for me to box myself into just one corner. Last month, I attended a seminar on consumer health information and one of the speakers was a librarian with a broad background in the industry. She had worked in so many libraries. Public, Academic, Law, and many more. She had experience in reference, cataloging, and technical services just to name a few. She eventually ended up in health librarianship, but she did not start there. It was clear from her CV that she loved health librarianship, probably because she had made such a long journey to get there. She already knew what the other areas were all about; now is the time to do what she really wants to do. I have a feeling that my foray into the profession will be the same.

In a way, I was at an advantage not having a job when I began the MLIS in 2008. As a result, I took the classes I was interested in, not just the ones I knew would benefit the job I had upon graduating. In the end, I learned so much about the field and not just the things I thought I should be learning for the job I already had. I also took the opportunity to do some research and make a contribution to the profession while I was still in school.

Another reason I did not specialize and am now "Undefined" was because I knew what kind of an economy I would be graduating into. The Economy was well on its way into downturn mode by September 2008 when I began picking electives. I had no idea what types of libraries would be hiring by the time I finished in April. Because I did not specialize, I did not have my heart set on one library. Imagine if I had specialized in one type of service and this was the very type that was first on the chopping block during budget time? I would have been devastated! Instead, I remain flexible and willing to do any type of library work I can find. Ultimately, I am committed to libraries and information, period. Not just some libraries and some information.

The other main reason I am "Undefined" is that there are things I love about public libraries, and there are things I love about academic libraries. I have qualities that will benefit a special library and I have qualities that will benefit law libraries. I know that I can make myself fit into a role where I am needed. If I don't know everything about that position, I can learn the stuff that I am missing. It really is that simple.

Unemployed Librarian: What to do?

So, I'm a recent MLIS graduate, and I do not have a library job. We're also deep in a recession, which I'm told is about to end, but I won't be holding my breath. What is an "unemployed" librarian to do?

Rub Elbows and Network
I have a notion (a pretty good one at that) that attending professional functions are good, no matter how irrelevant they might seem at the time. Seminars and conferences are an excellent opportunity to find out what is going on in the profession, keep your foot in the industry, and (most importantly) network and meet other library professionals. This cannot be stressed enough. One of my major weaknesses is that I'm not very good at networking. Having recently relocated, this is a double weakness. The good news is I live in an area where the librarians are connected and willing to bring new librarians into the fold. This makes it a lot easier to show up at a function where you don't know anyone and meet new people.

I volunteer at a library. Although my volunteering will not lead to a job in the foreseeable future, it provides the opportunity for me to practice my new-found library skills in a professional environment. It also gives me something to write in those blank spots on applications where "library experience" is requested. Volunteer work is real experience. Be careful about where you volunteer. Many public libraries, although great places to volunteer, don't usually farm out real library work to their volunteers. It's best to find a volunteer position that will nurture the skill set you already have.

This isn't limited to just talking. For instance, I'm communicating with you (is anybody reading?) now through this blog. Communicating is talking, blogging, and reading. You should mention to anyone in conversation, casually of course, that you are a recent graduate or that you're interested in library work. You never know who that person knows. Most of the time, it leads nowhere, but occasionally you find a golden opportunity. Really, what have you got to lose? You're already unemployed.
I'm also told that building an online presence is a great way to passively network. I've heard that a lot of libraries search the Web for recent applicants to positions. Finding the online presence of an applicant is a way for employers to know that you're actively participating in the profession even if you're not monetarily involved. I'm reading a lot of professional literature, but unless I mention it during an interview, how is my potential employer going to know that? Hopefully they have already read my blog and seen all of the articles I have commented on and read. Which brings me to my next point: Read!
Read everything you have time to read, not just about the field, but books too. If you're even remotely interested in public libraries, you should try to read what your patrons are reading. Also, have a good idea of what other people are reading. When I'm not reading my book on the bus, I'm looking around to see what other books are being read. This might seem nosy, but it's a good way to gather ideas and information about your community.

Learn a New Language
The communities that libraries are located in are becoming increasingly diverse. This is a giant challenge, but also a giant opportunity. I've always wanted to learn Spanish. Being unemployed, this is the perfect time. It can only serve to benefit in the end. Think about it, you'll finally be able to check off a box in the "Other Languages Spoken" section of the job application. I know I'm excited about this.

Don't Give Up!
Keep at it and stay positive. Sure, I have my hopeless days too, but lets face it, this is a recession. I'm not the only one out there who's unemployed.

This is what I'm doing at the moment. Hopefully you'll join me in the journey from "Unemployed" and "Undefined" Librarian to somewhere else wherever that may be.

Thanks for reading!