I Might be a Librarian?


So it’s been over a year since I’m really even looked at this blog and I am ashamed.

I would say the biggest news in my school career would be that I may ACTUALLY become some form of librarian. GASP!

I realized very quickly after I was doomed to accessing a local senator’s mess of an “archive” (also known as a bunch of mismatched boxes with no rhyme, reason, labeling, or hint of organization) that I hate archiving. And it’s not even the tedious work of sorting through nonsense, or desperately trying to free photographs from decades old picture frames, or even trying to make heads or tales of a person’s career that I have no familiarity with; it’s the loneliness.

I don’t know if all archives situations are like this or just the ones I’ve encountered, but archivists seem to dislike.. social interaction.

I like to talk. I talk a lot. I like to share jokes, chat about current events, and show off some of the crazy things I’ve found while processing (commemorative mmerchandise for Clinton’s inauguration including a rhinestone saxophone lapel pin? yes.). But it seems that most of the people I work with prefer to sit in a room alone (usually without windows) and silently sort through boxes and folders without being disturbed.

I simply cannot work/live like this. Sitting 8 hours in a chair staring at a screen, or standing and sorting through cool things that I cant talk about with someone, or even ask the opinion of a fellow archivist how certain materials should be handled. No, this is not my kind of career.

So, like I usually do. I’ve changed my mind. I’ve been doing outreach since last August (in addition to archivey stuff) at my school’s special collections and it’s awesome. I work on exhibits (albeit with some difficult people to work with, but I’m learning office dynamics, yay?), I work on social media, and I come up with fun public programs to get people excited about our stuff.

Granted, I hit a lot of walls:  People are either afraid of progress, don’t think a special collections library on a university campus should cater to students, are heads of outreach but don’t have any formal training in librarianship (it makes a difference, I promise), or programs have been castrated because people suck at budgets (keep ALL of the managers but decapitate the budget for the people who actually do library stuff. You know, retrieve books, shelve books, accession collections, process materials, etc.)

But I’m still trying to be hopeful. I’m going to use this extra year in school to explore more options in the field through internships, conferences, and more. I’m even taking an English class and all seems right again in the world.

I guess I should start considering another name for this blog…?

Guest Post: Why am I getting my MLIS? Because I have to.

Yes, yes, and YES

Agnostic, Maybe

When I tell people I’m in graduate school studying to be a librarian, I receive the response, “You need a Master’s degree for that?” I find myself struggling to defend it. Librarians do more than what the average person realizes, but how much of that is really gained through the MLS? I usually wind up confessing it is like a stamp to gain entry a nightclub. I’ve been advised countless times by librarians that your coursework doesn’t really matter, but your experience does. I agree that there is no teacher greater than experience, but isn’t this a huge flaw in our profession’s degree? This is also disheartening for me because the first word I’ve used to describe myself most of my life is “student.” I like being in the classroom. I want to learn. I want more degree to mean more than a stamp or a merit badge.

I agree…

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Anyone and Everyone Need Not Apply

I had an existential crisis on the train today.

I made the mistake of checking me e-mail on my “new” iPhone 4 (I waited til it was free) and of course was bombarded with stress and negativity. I try to teach myself not to check my e-mail before bed and in the morning for this very reason. Whether it’s a rejection message from a job application or the litany of things I have to do for my job that week, it just tightens my chest and makes me want to hop off at the next stop and walk to the nearest deli for everything fried on a greasy croissant.

So today, breaking my own rule, I checked my e-mail and lo and behold I was greeted by the wonderfully endless archiving association e-mails. No matter which organization, for students, for professionals, what-have-you, it’s bad news. Always. It starts out with a simple question about your experience or about what the best piece of equipment is to by and ends with the womp womp of a non-existant trombone. Usually the depressing news is in the form of the dismal budgets institutions face but today a lovely archivist cut straight to the point ensuring that the hopes of all inspiring archivists fizzled into oblivion.

“And on a final, depressing note, the sad fact is that many of you aren’t getting jobs (and aren’t going to get jobs) because there are just too many applicants for the available job openings. “

For me, that was the last straw. It is enough to struggle getting internships, many of which demand full time work for free or a “stipend” that is less than minimum wage. I don’t know who can afford to go to school and work full time for free, but if that is the demand then I don’t know how anyone survives in the field. But as that lovely messenger of doom shared, people might not actually survive being an archiving student and have to scamper off with their tail between their legs to something more lucrative and most likely more soul crushing. But then again, what can be more soul crushing than going into a field where the professionals sit comfortably in their jobs and tell you that you came too late and there’s no room left for you.

I guess the bottom line is, I know the job market is grim out there, but do professionals really need to rub it in?

Poignent and true. Stop rape culture now.

The Belle Jar

I don’t have to tell you that Steubenville is all over the news.

I don’t have to tell you that it’s a fucking joke that Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, the two teenagers convicted of raping a sixteen year old girl, were only sentenced to a combined three years in juvenile prison. Each will serve a year for the rape itself; Mays will serve an additional year for “illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.”

I probably don’t even have to tell you that the media treatment of this trial has been a perfect, if utterly sickening, example of rape culture, with its focus on how difficult and painful this event has been for the rapists who raped a sixteen year old girl then bragged about it on social media.

And I almost certainly don’t have to tell you that the world is full of seemingly nice, normal…

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Reblogged from GovLoop: Through the Grapevine or Twitter?: The Selection of Pope Francis and the Age of Social Media

(originally posted at GovLoop, knowledge network for government employees)


I bought a newspaper today. I can’t remember the last time I did since I acquire all of my news on the internet. If I had a smartphone, I’m sure I’d be even more up to date, being constantly attached to a plethora of information. But today I picked up a copy of the New York Times because, for the first time ever, there is a Latin American Pope.

Faith aside, millions of people all over the world waited to hear if white smoke was pouring out of the Vatican chimney. But people’s live are busy, so the majority of them didn’t wait by the television. Instead, many simple checkedIsThereWhiteSmoke.com, a site that cuts straight to the point, stating in big bold letters YES or NO. Once the virtual white smoke puffed out of the online chimney, many were directed to various LiveStreams of the exuberant crowds in Rome who awaited the announcement. 

Despite my eagerness to hear the cardinal’s choice (this year there were some really interesting candidates), I had to pack up my laptop and get on a train and go to class. Frustrated with the lack of my ability to find out who the pope was instantly when he was announced (I don’t have a smartphone), I asked several people, both at work, at home and my current residence, to keep watch for me and text me as soon as the new pope was named.

Not even 10 minutes after I left, Pope Francis (previously Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio) of Argentina, the first Jesuit and the first Latin American pope was announced. But as I sat on the train I realized something; several people were discussing that there was word that they decided on the new pope, but nobody knew who. They checked their smartphones, but none of the major American news networkshad the announcement, meanwhile my friends and family were following the news via the Guardian, a UK news source and were getting live updates which we retweeted and put on Facebook.

It made me wonder how news travels today. Later in the day I asked a few friends how they had found out. Few of them cited me as their source, and one other laughed about how her Latin American grandfather had texted EVERYONE in her family as soon as it had happened. What struck me most, though, was when my classmate and friend told me that she found out through Facebook, “you know, where you find out about any breaking news these days”. 

It cannot be denied that social media is the biggest news source for many people. From natural disasters to celebrity gossip, people spread the word through Twitter, Facebook, and even photo-based sites like Instagram. Social media usually gets the news to individuals first for many reasons; people are constantly checking it, it’s fast, and often it mimics the in-person word of mouth distribution but at lightning speed. In comparison, television is too slow because newscasters and studios have to prepare, while internet news cites can provide quick information once a journalist has taken the time to write an article. Social media takes seconds to update, and often mistakes are forgiven in a misquoted status update or tweet, giving more freedom to news providers to give up to date information without fear of some inaccuracy. 

And then there’s the newspaper. I only bought mine because, as an archiving student, I felt that the cover of the New York Times with Pope Francis’ photo should be kept for posterity. Newspapers these days produce news that is considered old, sometimes news that has already been discussed to death before any coherent article can be written. But they do have their place. 

During Hurricane Sandy, my parents (residents of New York) were without power for over a week, which included election day. the day after the election, my dad woke up and realized something very strange: He didn’t know who was the President of the United States. Because he lacked access to internet and television, he was forced to go out to buy a newspaper to find out that Obama had been re-elected. 


If anything, this papal decision has made me rethink how I acquire information, and how many other people acquire it as well. It has proven how much people rely on the internet for news, but it has also proven that even internet news sources can’t keep up with social media. However, as for Hurricane Sandy, it shows that sometimes an older technology is sometimes the most reliable.

 How do you find out about breaking news?

I’m really into the whole “outside the classroom” learning, maybe because I’m a bit jaded about the limited things I have been learning in the archives classroom verses what I’ve learned on the job. Definitely worth a look, I’m interested in the Harvard copyright class!


No matter how great a MLS/MLIS program is there just isn’t enough time and courses to learn everything. HLS alum Annie Pho previously discussed the interpersonal skills we don’t learn in school and identifying what you want to know, and Lauren Bradley contributed a guest post on continuing education after library school. It can be very frustrating to look at job postings and think, “What does that even mean? They didn’t teach me that!” But with an optimistic and do-it-yourself attitude the gap between what you know and what you need to know can shorten.

Take advantage of free online courses
Video tutorials or Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) take DIY to a whole new level.

Two great resources are the free Khan Academy and the subscription based lynda. Khan provides a library of high-quality instructional videos, and lynda offers software training through video courses. So far I’ve…

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Karen Zgoda, LMSW

UPDATE January 28, 2014: Now available in doll form! Courtesy of reader Deanna Foster who writes, “A very good friend of mine is doing her PhD, and I was inspired by your blog to give her a “Graduate School Barbie” for Christmas. I made some modifications to a barbie I picked up at WalMart. She really enjoyed it – thanks for your blog post!”

xmas2013 A

xmas2013 C

xmas2013 B

UPDATE November 26, 2013: Now available at the USA Today!

UPDATE November 4, 2013: Now available at the Huffington Post!

UPDATE August 8, 2013: Currently this post is at ~300,000 views (298,742 to be exact). THANK YOU INTERNET!

UPDATE December 6, 2012: Folks, I am deeply humbled by the attention this post has received. Here are recent stats:


Welcome!! Over 48,000 of you, most likely current or former graduate students, stopped by to say hi and laugh just yesterday alone. Most of you found…

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If You’re Already Sick of Christmas Music…

… try these songs on for size! While I myself am NEVER sick of Christmas music, many out there (many whom work in retail) would rather saw their arm off with the metal part of pencil eraser (called a ferrule, actually) than have to listen to Christmas music anymore. Well to those who want a little something else, listen to these songs listed in this mixtape put out by FlavorWire.

10 Best Songs About Libraries and Librarians

A friend from library school wrote this blog about some projects we were assigned. It’s a good point to make about the pros and cons of certain styles of assignments. Let me know your thoughts!


Your task is to develop a persona, and make up a research question that persona might ask.  It can be anything you want.  Once you have a question, take it to a reference desk at a library/archive/historical society of your choosing. Then write a paper about the experience.

Sound familiar? No, it’s not a rejected subplot from Skyfall.  It’s an assignment I’ve encountered in two different classes this fall, which is my first semester of library school.  And from talking with other LIS students, it seems like this is a common assignment regardless of your school.  It’s the “secret shopper” theory of observation at work.  An anthropologist might call it “extreme participant observation.”  The theory says you’ll learn more about something if you immerse yourself in it, giving no impression that you’re REALLY doing research.  That the other participant doesn’t know they’re part of an experiment should make their…

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As someone who loved to mix social media with the assumed dusty and ancient world of archiving and libraries, this article really hits home. It’s amazing how, in every way, big companies shut little companies out. If anything, this is a cyber version of what is going on in our country.

Agnostic, Maybe

If your library has a Facebook page and uses it for outreach, you need to read this article from the Dangerous Minds website. There really isn’t a good quote to pull out the meaning, so take a moment to go and read it. The basics revolve around Facebook monetizing page promotion while simultaneously throttling the amount of people who can see a post from a Facebook page. In short, if you want your page posts to reach your entire audience, you have to pay.

The free ride is over.

I can’t really fault Facebook for making a change like this; their investors want dividends and what drives that is revenue. The amount of things you can do with Facebook for free still makes it valuable for other purposes like keeping in touch with far away family members and friends. It does, however, feel slightly at odds with the ‘

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