Time for the post-grad school job hunt . . . Good Luck!

librarianforhireI want to start by saying congratulations to all the newly minted librarians out there. You just got your MLS or MLIS or MSI (or ALA-accredited equivalent) and are off to start your path changing the world of Information for the better.

But first you have to get the job. I’m not going to lie to you, this coming summer will be a  very long and incredibly short one. But you can do it! There are a few rules though:

  1. You just spent 2-3 years creating a network of interesting colleagues. Don’t abandon them. If you attended an in-person program, chances are a bunch of you are living out the remainder of your lease. Hang out. If you were in an online program, well, Hang Out  on G+ (or Skype or chat on Facebook). Go for a drink. Most importantly, when you hang out, talk about anything other than the job hunt. You were once an interesting person with hobbies, take this chance to be that again.
  2. Do something most days that requires you to put on not-pajamas and go somewhere else. It will make you feel human. Volunteering is good. Part-time jobs are good. At the very least go blog at a coffee shop.
  3. Write at least one application every day or two. Better yet, write them with a friend (or five). About March of my last year, a group of us started meeting at the Crazy Wisdom Tea House on Saturdays*. It was a built-in way to have someone to proofread our cover letters and someone to talk to while we filled out repetitive job forms.
  4. This is the toughest one: You have to be happy when your friends get hired, or at least act like it. It will be difficult. When my friend Steve got hired first, I had to pull out every single acting trick I knew to congratulate him. When someone gets something you want so badly, it’s hard to remember that their job isn’t about you. Chances are, you never got past the cover letter for that job (if you even applied). Your job is coming, and you can cry later. I did! Ask my former roommate about the day I collapsed on the sofa like a dying silent movie heroine . . .

By the numbers:

6 months
over 75 applications
5 phone interviews
4 in-person interviews (for one of them I had to rent a car and drive to Chicago at my own expense)
1 interview at ALA-Annual
2 job offers (I still feel bad about turning the 1st down, but it was a bad fit and I wouldn’t have lasted)
1 job

It’s harrowing, but keep at it. Now head over to inalj.com and get started.

*Confidential to the UMSI grads, Crazy Wisdom has amazing hummus and will give you as much hot water as you want. Tip generously ;).

Copyright: One Step Forward, and Two Steps Back

gunsablazinIt’s been an interesting couple of weeks in the land of what you own. I’ve talked about ownership before and how it’s changing as the world becomes more connected. The flat Internet does not play well with the concept of “things” and “buying.”

Libraries in particular are concerned about ownership because the entire reason we get away with loaning out things for free is the First Sale Doctrine. Basically, artists and copyright holders have the right to make money off of something once. I buy a book and it’s mine. I can sell it or give it away or use the pages for a new art project. The author has no say because they already made their one fee. Digital items are different because we don’t buy them, we license them. That’s why it’s not illegal for Amazon to suddenly delete your entire library. It’s not yours, they just sold you the right to look at it.

In the past month there have been two major court decisions in trying to figure out the murky waters of Internet + copyright law. One was good for regular folks and one was good for copyright owners and we’re still in a bit of a mess.

The first was Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons Inc., in which an enterprising young Thai student attending Cornell noticed that textbooks cost much, much less at home than they do in the United States. Being smart and knowing an opportunity when he saw one, he started buying textbooks in Thailand and selling them on eBay for a profit. He made over a million dollars. Wiley was not amused and sued him, claiming that the First Sale Doctrine does not apply to materials purchased overseas. Now, Kirtsaeng was pretty brash, but Wiley was claiming excessive control over things. As many people have asked, what about if I buy a book for my wife in Japan? which illustrated the primary problem with the suit: Wiley has every right to be grumpy about losing profits for a large-scale operation, but they can’t control it without calling into question every single thing we buy from overseas. For libraries this would have meant any books from abroad could not be leant. Fortunately the Supreme Court sided with the kid and things you buy are yours to sell without consulting the publishers. Your garage sale is safe!

But on the other hand we have our digital objects: mp3s, ebooks, games, etc, and things aren’t looking so good over here. See, ReDigi is a site that will buy back your mp3s and then re-sell them. It’s not a perfect system, it requires you download what is essentially spyware to make sure you don’t get that song back on your computer. But it does solve the problem of keeping a copy while selling another copy forward. The spyware deletes any copy you own. It’s the online equivalent of a used record store, as Planet Money said. And the judge said, “no.”

The problem with First Sale is that it was written with physical objects in mind. After all, at the time 8-Track players were the height of cool tech. So when the judge said that if you want to sell an mp3, you have to sell the device that contains it, I understand where he was coming from. It also makes me want to bang my head on the desk. An mp3 on an iPod is different from an mp3 on your computer. Sell one and you still have the other. Buy a new device and the collection can be transferred in less than 5 minutes. Sigh. Fortunately, this was a circuit court, and ReDigi is appealing. With luck they’ll get a judge that is willing to take a stand on the difference between an mp3 and a phonorecord.

In the meantime, I’m going to be old fashioned and buy DVDs for my movies and probably start streaming music like I do TV. I mean, if I don’t get to own my music anyway, why should I bother buying things piecemeal? Now if only Spotify would pay artists directly . . . .

The Wait is Over

rocketOk, so I was all set to get all huffy about the Six Strikes thing that the companies we pay for a service are inflicting upon us. (Seriously, the RIAA and the MPAA are a combination of the grumpy old person who shouts, “Get off my lawn!” and a spoiled six-year-old who takes his toys and breaks up the game when he’s not winning). But, hey, just go watch this patronizing video and think to yourself, “How much to I pay these guys to provide bad service again?” I can’t get to far into it, I’m too distracted because the MakerBot arrived!

See, when I got my job I really only had one thing I wanted to push for: a MakerBot. (Or any 3D printer, really, but the MakerBot is at about the level of mechanical complexity that I can handle. And they’ve got a company philosophy that I can appreciate.) I knew this was big and possibly a long-shot, but I spent close to a year mentioning it, answering questions, and dropping hints. I probably wasn’t as subtle as I like to think, but I was patient. My plan was to focus on the iPod Touches this year, and then ask for the printer next year.

But then there was a grant. Our Campus Technology Services department gives out Technology Initiative Project Grants. They were announced right around the day the iPods became available, and due two weeks later. Needless to say, November is kind of a blur. We found out that our proposal was successful in January, and since then it was just a matter of waiting. We thought we had to wait until the end of next week, but MakerBot Industries apparently follows the strategy of “tell them eight weeks but deliver in six.”

So it’s here, I’ve spent the last three days printing objects where before there was only an empty space. My co-worker says it looks like a fish tank, and is highly amused by me sitting three inches away, staring intently. The cognitive dissonance that everyone has when they try to imagine one of these dohickeys is starting to go away. I get how it works and I’m starting to understand why some items look perfect and others look like they got in a fight with a noodle maker. All we need is more filament and we can go live with the service.

Confidential to those of you convinced one of our students is going to print a gun: 1) The MakerBot filament really isn’t strong enough to make a workable gun. It would probably shatter on the first shot, taking the shooter’s fingers with it.  2) We print things, not our patrons. So they have to go through us first, and we won’t print off guns. It says so on the form.

Photo note: We printed the spaceship. The aliens belong to one of my colleagues.

The Snowball has Started Rolling

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATwo weeks down, and boy do I feel popular. In addition to my usual Library Instruction classes for the Psychology department, there has been a distinct uptick in requests for “Learning Technology” classes, not to mention requests for presentations at department or committee meetings to talk about what’s up at the Library (sometimes with my Partner in Crime, Dan Laird). I’m getting a reputation. If you want your students to try something cool, call Emily.

I’m psyched for a couple of reasons: 1) In the cutthroat world of academia, any rationalization for your job is good. Being able to say, “I’ve taught (x) number of technology classes” is a plus come review time. 2) This also proves that there’s a market for a “me” kind of librarian.

Anyone who is subject to my Facebook feed knows that one of my regular whines is that I can’t seem to find anyone else who has my job. I’m not really an “Emerging Technology Librarian,” although I do keep my fingers on the pulse of what’s going on and try to think of new and exiting technology to bring into the library. However, most of my job involves teaching. But not “Information Literacy Librarian” teaching.

In fact, I’m closer to a Technology Literacy Librarian. Research has shown that the average college student knows how to use the Internet and gadgets, but what I see shows that there is a wide gap from Facebook to a fully produced multimedia project. In my job, I take stressed college students who are terrified of sounding stupid and show them how to do their projects. No question is stupid (if I had a nickel for every time I showed someone how to save a Powerpoint as a .pdf), and that makes the students feel comfortable talking to me.

So, be it Zotero or photo editing or movie making, I am here to help the students. Could it be done by a kid from IT, probably. But could it be done as well and leave students feeling like they can do anything? Depends on the kid. However, coming from Libraryland and seeing the technology as another tool to bring students success makes me a stronger option.

Any other librarians want to play?

My Head Hurts

Is there anything more difficult than trying to get your brain back after a vacation?

I know I really don’t have anything to complain about – most K-12 librarians are already in full teaching mode. Our students are still at home, leaving the library to wayward faculty members who can finally get some quiet. And me, I’m left to my own devices so I can catch up on meetings, paperwork, and anything else I’ve been ignoring since the beginning of November.

That and to figure out where I’m going for this semester:

Catch up on my collecting. I am so far behind. I am having dreams about books for our budding counselors.
I’ve been assigned the Occult and Parapsychology areas for weeding. New game: mold or demons?
Get some stats on the iPods.
Figure out what the next technology element for the library is and then get that organized.

That is the big one. I am 99.99% sure we are getting the thing I asked for, but nothing is official yet. But then, what comes after that? I have a cool job, but there is some anxiety about whether or not I can keep up this pace. And how do I avoid buying metaphorical 8-track players?

So there it is, a brief blog post consolidating all of my worries for the coming semester. Not terribly exciting, but it has made me feel better to get it on paper. By telling the EdReach community it’s like I’ve set a deadline I can keep.

The Trouble with Twitter

My Library’s Twitter feed (@PenfieldLib) just passed 200 followers. Well, 220 actually, but who’s counting? We got a huge bump this week due to a number of factors: students’ procrastination; more students in the library; free coffee; and an unexpected evacuation.

But I’m not here to talk about how to boost your followers. After all, innumerable dodgy Tweeple will give you thousands of (probably not real) followers for a nominal fee. This is about who we’re following, and what is our responsibility towards helping them understand how Twitter and other social media work.

@PenfieldLib has somewhat rigid guidelines about who we follow back. Essentially, it’s students, faculty, alumni, and occasional classes at SUNY Oswego. That’s it. But my goodness do we get an unvarnished view of what our students are up to!

It’s no surprise that they’re drinking (underage) and carousing. That’s what undergrads DO. It’s part of going to college. What is surprising is that they tell us about it. I mean, they got an email at some point that said, “@PenfieldLib is following you.” In fact, it’s highly likely that @SUNYOswego is following them too (they follow everybody). And they must know that when they re-tweet something that their “anonymous” sarcastic friend tweeted, we will see that as well.

Don’t they?

I’m guessing not. The Internet is more connected than ever, but it still has the veil of invisibility. Since our students have been online practically since birth, they are used to it. This doesn’t mean that they’re not SHOCKED when a frivolous tweet comes back to bite them. After all, they’ve probably sent out dozens of questionable morsels out into the world and then all of a sudden one comes back. Why this one? Why not this other one that is far worse?

So what should we do? Here we’re starting with a workshop next semester. I’m not too optimistic though. Everyone thinks it’ll never happen to them until they’re about to lose their job over something dumb. I’m more than open to suggestions though.

A Gadget Librarian finds Gadgets

My job as a Learning Technologies Librarian includes seeking out new things that will enhance our students’ experience and, of course, learning. So far, I’ve added portable projectors, an SLR camera, and some nice microphones to our collection. Those were easy. The next big addition (hopefully very soon!) took a little more.

So, some background: my library has been checking out Flip Cameras for a couple of years now. They’re great, they’re popular, and they’re discontinued. Personally I would like to hit Cisco upside the head for ruining a really delightful little gadget, but there you go. At one point there were 10, and I thing we’re down to eight. I do know that one of them died a slow death by chat support last year.

So what to do? We could pay $160-$260 for new Flips, but that’s kind of just investing in  a dying technology (support ends December 2013). The answer: iPod Touches! They’ve arrived and they’re scattered all over my office. They have the same video capabilities (well, with a better lens), work as a point-and-shoot, and the students can download whatever apps they want-making the possibilities endless.

Here’s the basics of how we’re planning to organize things:

  1. iPhone Configurator: The devices need to be reset every time they come back. The Configurator lets us add the network stuff so the students can log in and go. They do have to set themselves up in the App Store if they want apps.
  2. Chargers: We will check them out with their cable, but we’re including a little charger. They go out for a week, so
  3. Group USB chargers: We found a wall charger that lets us plug in up to four USBs at a time. This way, they’ll go out with a full battery.
  4. We’re making cases. (Guess what I’m doing this weekend?)
  5. The Flip Cams came with little tripods. We bought a few Slingshots. Special bonus: they’ll work with any phone. Heck, they worked with my Nexus 7 tablet.
  6. Apple was kind enough to engrave them for us, with two phone calls and an email to check spelling.

So there you go, with the exception of a rather elaborate check-in plan (email me if you want it), brand new devices! I can’t wait to see what the students do with them.


Emily Thompson is the host of EdReach’s show LiTTech, a show for the innovative librarian. LiTTech highlights the innovative news, gadgets, and resources for the literary educator. You can follow her on Twitter @librarianofdoom.

LiTTech #53: Ditching Dewey

This week on LiTTech: The Dewey Decimal System is used the world over in public and school libraries, but is that a good thing? Recently the Ethical Cultural Field School completely revamped their library using a system they invented called Metis. This episode, Addie and Emily talk about whether that’s a good thing, and what it means for libraries all over.

Show Host: Emily Thompson

Show contributors: Addie Matteson,

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LiTTech #52: Participatory Environments

This week on LiTTech: Emily and Addie take participatory learning one step further by exploring what makes a participatory environment. It all comes down to wheels.

Show Host: Emily Thompson

Show contributors: Addie Matteson,

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Every Escalator Needs a Polka Button: My Time Amongst the Web Folk

I can’t really say what I was expecting, coming to the Higher Ed Web 2012 Conference in Milwaukee. Left to my own devices, I would never have picked a conference for web professionals. I mean, I’m not one. I work with the web all day, and I can crank out a site using HTML and CSS in a pinch, but it’s not really my job.

And yet, this week I found myself wandering the windy streets with a badge around my neck doing my best to network with the people who accidentally taught the world to “know your back channel.” Here are my takeaways:

Perks: I’m apparently now a member of the Higher Ed Web Association. A charter member no less. I doubt I’ll keep this up past next year, but I still have the button. I remember a discussion in grad school about how Librarians and Archivists are “professional” because they have associations and codes of ethics and organization; however most of the other disciplines aren’t really because they are too new and haven’t banded together yet. HA! Take that! Welcome to the club, guys. Now get on those ethics.
Also, ALA’s vendor swag beats HEWeb’s vendor swag*, but HEWeb gave me a fleece! It’s silvery grey and I loves it very much.

Know who you are: I must have said, “I’m a librarian,” a million times over the three days. I don’t know if I was trying to justify my ignorance, stand out, or remind people not to use jargon. No one left in any doubt whatsoever of what my job is, though.

Pay attention to the descriptions: I only went to one session that was really over my head, and that was my fault. I mean, did I really think that a session on responsive design wasn’t going to be mostly code? Also, responsive design is way cooler than a separate mobile site (just sayin’).

Make sure no one misses the best stuff: I love the idea of declaring five sessions the best in their track and then making those people do their presentation two more times. Genius. How many times have you spent money and time to go to a conference only to discover that you missed the best session sitting in a responsive design session that was not relevant to your work (or worse, in that session that makes you wonder if a drunken turtle was choosing the presenters out of a hat). I missed “I Don’t Have Your PhD – Working with Faculty and the Web” by Amanda Costello the first go-round, and it ended up being an incredibly valuable session. Her red stapler was well-deserved, and I will keep my notes for years.

Professional Development sessions always apply: I learned new stuff on social media, talked about MOOCs, working with grad students, working with vendors, and more. Since it was all coming from a slightly different angle than I’m used to, it was a good opportunity to see where I am in comparison to the rest of the world, and then adjust.

Adam Savage: Best speaker since Neil Gaiman at ALA Midwinter 2010. Great speech, great Q&A session, just amazing. Best tip: You don’t have to be friends with your partners to do good work. In fact, you might do better work with someone who is emphatically not your friend. I also learned that my librarian direction-following skills are handy. I mean, when they say, “We’re going to alternate mics,” which line should you get in: the one with one person or the one with six people? (Confidential to Mr. Savage: Thanks for answering my question, but I don’t think we can support an Arduino. At least not until I learn C. I’m going to keep pushing for the MakerBot.)

Would I do again? Maybe. If the price came down, or I magically got more professional development money. I am very happy I went this round, though. I met a lot of interesting people and genuinely feel like SUNY Oswego is on the right track. We’ll see about that regional conference at Mount Holyoke though . . . . I do love the Amherst area.

And every escalator needs a polka button.

*Most wouldn’t give me anything because I don’t have a say in SUNY Oswego’s content management system. But the guys from OmniUpdate win for vendors who I would have a beer with anytime they’re in town. Note to unnamed vendor: In Higher Ed the purpose of social media isn’t really to drive traffic to the website. All of our students know the website. It’s the only place they can go to get much of their stuff done. We’re using social media to have conversations with our students, parents, alumni, and faculty. In fact, any company using social media to drive traffic to their home page is doing it wrong. Search engines bring people to your site; social media is about conversations.


Emily Thompson is the host of EdReach’s show LiTTech, a show for the innovative librarian. LiTTech highlights the innovative news, gadgets, and resources for the literary educator. You can follow her on Twitter @librarianofdoom.

LiTTech #51: Unpacking the OPAC

This week on LiTTech: Emily and Addie talk about that stalwart of the library: the Online Public Access Catalog. They talk through some jargon and give some tips on how to navigate and find what you need.

Show Host: Emily Thompson

Show contributors: Addie Matteson,

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LiTTech #50: Banned Books Week!

This week on LiTTech: Emily and Addie celebrate the freedom to read whatever they like. It’s Banned Books Week! Go read something subversive . . . .

Show Host: Emily Thompson

Show contributors: Addie Matteson,

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LiTTech #49: Social Media for Your Library

This week on LiTTech: Emily and Addie are joined by public librarians Amanda and Samatha for a chat about strategies to put your library out there using social media. What works, what doesn’t, and what we’re not so sure about yet.

Show Host: Emily Thompson

Show contributors: Addie Matteson, Amanda Goodman, and Samantha Helmick.

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Fixed vs Flexible

This week on LiTTech: Emily and Addie discuss what fixed and flexible schedules are, their advantages and disadvantages, and how librarians can work within each type.

Show Host: Emily Thompson

Show contributors: Addie Matteson, Karen Shockey

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Ownership Revisited

I just saw a commercial for the DVD set of Once Upon a Time. (Please don’t judge my television choices. I’m a sucker for elaborate costumes and cheap CGI.) First thought, “Oh, I like that show.” Second thought, “Why would I pay for that? Isn’t it on Hulu somewhere?” This got me thinking back to my post on ownership a couple of months ago. What if the problem with piracy stems from the fact that we as consumers don’t own any of the files we download. I mean, why would anyone pay for something that could disappear at any moment? Something you can’t sell to your friend when you get tired of it?
Stay with me for a moment.

We know that people value things more when they pay something for them, even if it’s just a nominal amount. This is why we require a deposit on things.

So as the media companies come up with more ways to separate ourselves from our dollars, perhaps it will have the opposite effect. We see services like Wal-Mart’s Vudu that will take something you already own and put it on the cloud for a small fee. I repeat, it will charge you for something you already own in order to save you the trouble of carting around a DVD. iTunes only recently let us have access to movies we bought but deleted. (And that was nice of them. They did not have to do that according to the Terms of Service we all signed.) Up until a month or so ago, I would have had to pay more to re-download those movies I lost when my computer crashed. These files we purchase and store in the cloud could disappear at any moment, so why should we pay for them?

I’ll admit I did get pretty excited when the gossip mill decided Bruce Willis  was going to sue iTunes for the right to leave his mp3 collection to his kids. Shame it was just a weird, made up story, because it’s a very valid question. We’re amassing these collections at great expense, and we have no first-sale rights.

I’m not advocating piracy. I want artists to get paid for their work (please go buy things from your favorite band’s website). I’m just saying that I’d rather ignore ads on Hulu and pay a fee to Netflix than accumulate files that could disappear whenever their real owners change their policy.

I guess what I’m arguing is that the concept of Digital Rights Management is actually creating the mentality that none of these things are real. And why should we pay real money for something that doesn’t exist? After all, the emperor is not wearing any clothes.

(Just as a side rant: Hatchette is raising prices on its ebooks for libraries. That’s right, they’re raising the price on these digital files that the libraries don’t actually get to own. Which means, really, more of your tax dollars being spent to lease things.)

Photo by Frank Douwes via flickr.com.

Emily Thompson is the host of EdReach’s show LiTTech, a show for the innovative librarian. LiTTech highlights the innovative news, gadgets, and resources for the literary educator. You can follow her on Twitter @librarianofdoom.

LiTTech #47: Take a Shot on a One-Shot Workshop

This week on LiTTech: Emily and Addie talk with Karen Shockey about the concept of the bastion of Library Instruction: the One-Shot Workshop. What is it? And how can teachers help to ensure that the Librarian will really cover what their students need?

Show Host: Emily Thompson

Show contributors: Addie Matteson, Karen Shockey

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LiTTech #46: Librarian Lifeline for New Teachers

This week on LiTTech: Emily and Addie look at a blog post by Bethany Kelly and talk about how librarians can help answer new teachers’/professors’ questions and make them feel welcome.

Show Host: Emily Thompson

Show contributors: Addie Matteson,

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LiTTech #45: Georgia State Fights the Power

This week on LiTTech: Emily and Addie try to muddle their way through the Georgia State copyright decision. What happened? What does it mean for libraries? What is OK for reserves and what isn’t? Oh, and what are reserves again?

Show Host: Emily Thompson

Show contributors: Addie Matteson,

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