Archives for category: Librarianship, generally

So, you and your library are not on Twitter. Big deal, right? Professional sporting events, political debates, award shows and cable news are pre-hashtagged, but what does it mean for you? If you’re feeling left out, and want to get into Twitter, I’m going to propose a two and half pronged attack:

The Institutional Account

The odds that you’re already producing the stuff you need to populate an institutional Twitter account are high: new LibGuides, new acquisitions, changes to your regular hours, programs, Ask A Lib services, etc. Twitter is just a free way to publicize what you already do. Before you sign up, consider:

  • Setting some policies about who will tweet, how often, and in what style to give your account consistency, and legitimacy
  • Setting a few more policies about how and when to respond to retweets, favorites, and mentions, favorable and unfavorable
  • How to incorporate your Twitter background page, icon and shortened links into the greater branding of your institution (if you’re not a stand alone kind of place, i.e. law schools that are part of larger universities)
  • Will this be fun for you? If no one on staff is going to enjoy tweeting, the product won’t show your best side. Twitter is a great way to humanize an institution, show that it’s made of individual voices that make one–but if you’re not feeling it, your Twitter voice will show it.

The Personal Professional Account

Networking, attending conferences, attending conferences that you’re not even in the same time zone as: let Twitter solve it for you! If you’ve ever felt like you’re missing out on what’s going on in the library world, or like your professional development budget is $5, Twitter can be a great way to get out there, without getting out there. In my own life, I call it “using the Internet to trick people into thinking I’m important.” And I have to say, reader, you’re here, aren’t you? For your personal professional account:

  • Consider making the icon an actual picture of you, or at least cartoon you. This is your brand!
  • Keep your tweets related to your professional life. This is your chance to promote your work, your institution, your ideas, but not your cat, or your dinner, or your shoes. Ok, a little bit of that from time to time is nice to show you’re not a library robot, but keep it pro.
  • Use your personal professional account to follow the hashtags of conferences you’re not at (because who can afford them all), but also conferences you are at. It makes the entire experience richer.
  • A little shameless self promotion won’t hurt you. Did you write a new Lib Guide for your library? Get it out there! It’s good for you, it’s good for your institution, and it’s good for someone who maybe wouldn’t have found the information without Twitter.
  • Above all, don’t make your Twitter feed a moment by moment account of your day, because it’s boring. Take this advice from Garance and ask yourself whether your tweet is relevant before you post it.

The Solely Personal Account

It can be a little fragmenting, I suppose, but so many things in life are more fun with Twitter. Find your friends at baseball games, follow food trucks, rave (or rant with caution) about new restaurants, share pictures of your animals. Don’t forget:

  • Be careful about turning locations on–I hear there are bad people on the interwebz.
  • If you’re taking a picture of, say, a playbook in your lap, be sure you’re wearing pants (I’m looking at you Chris Cooley, former Redskin).
  • Don’t forget your #natitude

#natitude by Meg & the rest of Natstown

If you’ve skimmed all this and still don’t think Twitter is for you, don’t forget that you can read people’s open pages without actually joining. Let’s do this again for Facebook a little later on!


“Where have you been” is one of those loaded questions that can mean, “Where have you been, I have been waiting for you for hours,” or “Where have you been all my life?” The reasons you aren’t there can be just as varied. This week, we’re going to talk about getting back into the swing of things, professionally, when you’ve been out of the loop. We’ll talk about getting involved in social media, getting involved in a professional association, starting a new program at your library, and we might even discuss my two week hiatus from Lulu.

A sullen faced, “Where have you been, I’M STARVING” Neko, by Meg

Whether or not you’re a baseball fan, or even a sports fan, there’s something to be learned about managing from a profession driven by men called Managers. They might not always choose their staffs, but they work with who they have to get the best results–as many wins as– possible.

Ozzie, by Meg

I have had great managers, and terrible managers. Likewise, I’ve had the pleasure of watching successful baseball teams, and the agony of watching dreadful teams. Two ideas unite both: chaos breeds chaos, and consistency breeds calm. Ranting and raving, publicly decrying your staff, and general anger are divisive and destructive. Conversely, public praise, private problem resolution, and general calm are uniting and productive.

Without a checklist: if you’re in a management position right now, be mindful. Things may need to change at your workplace, but you will get more done by being a steady, predictably cool presence than by being an unstable, unpredictable hot head. Be calm, and be effective. Be erratic, and work in circles.

I have never taught a full semester course. I’m not even Dr. Meg, it’s just what my friends in my AP US Government class called me in high school. But, I have gone to school a few times. From my consumer perspective, here are some pro tips on professorship.

by Meg

Course Design and Syllabus

  • Order of operations: If you’re teaching skills that build on one another, be mindful of that fact when ordering your lessons. International Shoe doesn’t make much sense without understanding jurisdiction; the contents of the U.S. Code don’t make much sense without understanding the legislative process. Timing matters.
  • The virtue of snow days: Don’t forget to leave wiggle room in your course outline. One lesson might take longer than anticipated to sink in, the weather might not cooperate, you might want to include a review session for an exam. No amount of careful planning can change the randomness of life.
  • Get a copy editor: Few things are more disheartening than typos and grammatical errors in a syllabus. It shows your disregard for value, or worse, makes you look incompetent.

Conducting the Class

  • Know your stuff: Like typos, inaccuracies in lectures and course materials make you look like an idiot. They might be honest mistakes, but there’s nothing worse for a student than feeling like they wasted hard-earned money on an expensive course taught by someone who has no idea what they’re talking about.
  • Students are adult humans, not children, or animals: adjust your tone and inflection accordingly. Parents of infants and toddlers, take note: it’s an easy mistake to make.
  • The Army way: “I’m going to tell you what I’m going to tell you, tell you, and then tell you what I told you.” One of my favorite professors in law school was a retired soldier, who had also taught at JAG school, and his method was very effective (especially for property, yeesh).

Student Evaluations

  • Grade and time: If your course will evaluate student performance with something more than a final exam, grade that work in a timely manner. If you can’t do so, ask yourself why you’re assigning it.
  • True results: The way a course is conducted should match the evaluation. Skills classes like trial advocacy, legislative history, might only need short answer questions, or hands-on take-home demonstrations. Big idea classes like gender theory in American law might be better suited to long form essay questions.
  • False positives for law school courses: Lest we forget, at the end of law school, one takes the bar. If you are teaching bar tested stuff, a bar style test will be disfavored in the moment, but probably really appreciated a few years later.

What was your favorite thing about your favorite professor?


Hey, look, a selection of software books from the early-mid 2000s from a library that shall remain unnamed. Quaint, no? I’m pro print materials, but in the case of teaching yourself how to code, why not get hands on?

Learning How To Code On Your Own:

  • Codecademy: Interactive tutorials that you can complete on your own, or in tandem with friends, on HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Python and more
  • Code Year: a Codecadmey project that delivers a lesson every Monday, for those who like to be reminded that it’s coding time
  • Lifehacker’s Teach Yourself To Code: Helpful tips on languages and what each one can do, which compilers to use, app and add on development
  • Mozilla School of Webcraft: A range of courses and challenges using real life APIs like Twitter
  • Google Code University: Including classes for Android programming (who better to learn from?)

Learning How to Code With A Group:

  • Meetup: Searching “coding” and your location and be a-mazed. There are classes everywhere! How do I know? I tested it with my hometown, and if there are coding classes around Hampton, VA, they must be everywhere.
  • Check your local community college listings. Or, if you’re at an academic institution, it’s time to cash in those free tuition credits, no?

Coding + Girl Power

  • Girl Develop It: Based in NYC, Meetup-based classes for women who have been shy to ask about coding, and might feel more comfortable in an all/mostly female setting
  • Women Who Code: Based in San Fransisco, another woman-focused Meetup
  • Ladies Learning Code: Originally based in Toronto, with a west coast branch in Vancouver

Real Schools, Real Courses, Still Free

Are you ready? I’m most looking forward to Codecademy, but I might look for a lady coding Meetup around DC. How about you?

Before we even get into the skill set that one now needs to be a librarian, we need to create a foundation. That foundation is you accepting that you don’t know everything, allowing yourself to be a novice, and being open to change. It’s hard to do. There is a fine line between accepting that you don’t know something and feeling stupid for not knowing it, between allowing yourself to be a novice and feeling disempowered. Don’t take what you don’t know personally. I find that I learn less when I’m feeling defensive, and I learn more when I am feeling like a badass who’s about to gain a world of knowledge.

Today, I’m putting that theory on the line, and starting my research for Back To School here:


Greetings from the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress. I worked here for a long time, and now I don’t. But today, I am getting over what I think I should know about this collection based on my experience here, starting from scratch, and compiling a giant list of resources for later this week. You, dear readers, deserve everything that this collection has to offer, and frankly so do I.

We may be librarians, but we cannot know everything. There simply isn’t enough time–which also doesn’t leave enough time to feel guilty, or hopeless. Nothing replaces experience, but repeating the same tasks, improving upon the same skills, can only accomplish so much. It’s easy to feel like we’re chasing an ideal can never be caught, but catching up isn’t the goal. We are all learners here, and you are a badass.

Formal education can’t teach you everything, but do you ever feel like there were some major plot holes in your library schooling? There’s much to be said for learning by experience, but a little guidance in advance never hurt in the cases of:

  • Management and human resources
  • Teaching full semester courses as an associate professor, with elbow patched tweed jackets
  • Creating digital archives
  • Wrangling big data
  • Being confident enough to go at the above tasks with no instruction, and no warning

This week at Lulu, we’re looking at self education, outside of the classroom, because all librarians must be able to do all things. We’re learning together, you and I: I’m going to compile lots of resources on each topic, and you’re going to tell me who and what I’ve left out in the comments, on Facebook, on Twitter, wherever. Sound like a deal?

In the spirit of education, may I present one Mary McLeod Bethune with the promise of a post on biography as inspiration forthcoming:

Mary McLeod Bethune at the National Portrait Gallery, by

I thought I would finish Mental Health Break with a field report from the other side of librarianship: the side where one is not a librarian at all. I recently described myself as an “information professional at large,” and with 12.8 million Americans out of work last month, I can’t be the only one. However, filling out application after application that asks, “Name?,” eventually leads to “Who am I?,” and then to “I am alone” more often than I care to admit.

Aside from the monotony of applications, the guilt I assign myself for having lost my job (and increasingly, for not being a Stepford Wife while I’m at home all day), and the sheer boredom, the hardest part of unemployment that I am in total control to fix is this nagging feeling of wasted time because I am not in the career that I went to school so many times to realize. Did I really believe that I would prevent any sort of unpleasant employment situation, or that I would always be doing precisely what I set out to do? Did I think that there wouldn’t be down time?

Well, yes.

I’m willing to blame youthful ignorance, willful ignorance, sheer stupidity, gross misinterpretation of the brand of feminism with which I’ve surrounded myself, whatever. I need to get over it. There is more to me than being a law librarian. I am in total control to fix monotony, guilt, and boredom, too, but here are my new efforts to stop feeling like a wasted effort that you can try too:

  • Plan projects that you would never be able to/allowed to do at work. I’m typing away on my social media consulting materials, thinking of how to fund, then digitize stuff for fun and no profit, and thinking of dipping my toe into a for real academic article.
  • Go out and visit related institutions. I live in a big city full of libraries, and I’ve been to practically none. You can always learn from what someone else is doing, even without making a big formal tour of it. Just go in as a user, see what happens.
  • Go out and visit not at all related institutions. Libraries aren’t just libraries anymore. Go to museums, factories, start up offices, print media houses, coffee shops. There’s a lesson to be learned everywhere, which is terribly convenient as libraries now have to do everything.
  • Embrace your pre-graduate education. You learned to color inside the lines at one point, right? Have you colored recently? No?? Well, there you have it. If you’re really feeling ambitious, go and do that with people who are learning it for the first time, share your experience, and don’t forget to mention that coloring outside the lines is way more fun

Today, I am going to the beach. I’ve granted myself a one day break from applications and house work, and I’m going to read my September Vogue under a big, fabulous hat, and sketch sea birds. If I were at work, I couldn’t do any of these things on a Wednesday. But today, instead of lamenting my unemployment, I’m going to try and make the most of it.

Vogue and big, fabulous hat, by Meg

Everyone is not going to like you. You are not going to like everyone. The more difficult you find those facts to accept, the more likely you are to find yourself losing sleep, or dreading going to work over a difficult coworker.
Much like bad bosses, there are many brands of crap colleagues: oversharers, the hyper peppy, the hypo peppy, folks with intense mood swings, anger issues, liars, louts, the whole lot. Step one to dealing with any of these types is allowing yourself to not get along with them. It’s ok! So many people, especially women, feel the need to like and be liked for fear of being impolite. Being able to work with a variety of people is an important asset, but sometimes, it just isn’t going to happen. Your value at work is more than your likability.

After you have allowed yourself to not get on with your problem coworker, assess how you have been reacting to them. You’re upset, yes, but how is that manifesting in your work, your self-esteem? You cannot control someone else, but you can control yourself. If you can pinpoint what happens after a bad interaction with a bad coworker, you can change how you react. For example, let’s say you have a coworker who sends inflammatory emails about your work, ccing everyone, every day. If you usually sit in your office and fume, try going for a break, or at least doing something away from your computer for a while. Extract yourself from the situation, and change your own personal outcome.

Now that you have allowed yourself to not get on with your problem coworker, and you have identified and changed your reaction to what bothers you about said coworker, it’s time to be honest with the coworker. You’ve been honest with yourself thus far, and while that’s a positive step, if you don’t tell the coworker what’s going on, you’re going to come off as passive aggressive. You don’t need to list every single problem you have with the person, but a simple, “It really upsets me when you _____, I’m going to _____ when it happens, and I just wanted you to know.” What if the person has no idea they’re doing that? They might not care, of course, but we don’t get better at being humans without feedback. Be brief, be professional, and move on.

In review:

  • Allow yourself to not get along with everyone.
  • Identify how you react to a bad situation, extract yourself, and change your own personal outcome.
  • Explain the situation and your new reaction to the person who’s upsetting you briefly, and professionally.
  • Be happier. After all, whose life is it, anyway?

The second most common question that I’ve been encountering on job interviews is, “so, what was it like serving Members of Congress [in your most recent position at the Law Library of Congress]?” The answer is, “it was nice, but they’re not really the primary patron group. They don’t walk into the Reading Room, they rarely call. I mostly served members of the public, especially pro se litigants and homeless patrons.”

This fact does not impress most people.

However, I was very concerned with giving the best possible service to homeless patrons. The parade of sad stories was varied: veterans with addiction issues, domestic violence survivors, folks too old for the foster system, but not old enough for Adult Protective Services, and a range of mental health issues. Which is to say, most of these patrons had other very serious problems which likely led to their homelessness. And they were angry. There was a lot of yelling, erratic behavior, and that was all very unpleasant. But, at the end of the day, I always got to come home, eat dinner and sleep in my bed.

In the spirit of gratitude for being able to sleep in your own bed at night, some practice tips for dealing with homeless patrons:

  • Just listen. Law librarians cannot offer legal advice, and we’re often quick to point out that fact to public patrons when we’re tired of listening to their stories. But, when you’re ignored in the public arena (in stores, on the streets) you might just want someone to listen to your problems to confirm that you’re still human.
  • Recommend appropriate resources. Let’s say someone comes in with a court summons that cites a rule. Don’t throw the entire Rules of Civil Procedure at them. Get the right volume of the annotated code (of wherever), show them the rule, then show them the annotations so they can read about it, see some case examples, etc. Is language an issue? Give them the annotated rules and a dictionary.
  • If you can’t help, suggest someone who can. Familiarize yourself with your areas’ shelters, non-profits, and government agencies that handle veterans’, domestic violence, addiction, and general mental health issues. Recommending another resource is typically not legal advice. Try, “have you contacted the VA?,” or “are you familiar with city’s Rape Crisis Hotline?”
  • If it’s getting ugly, tell the patron exactly what behavior they need to change in order to stay in the library. “You need to lower your voice,” or “I need you to step back so that I can continue helping you.” A specific direction is more considerate, and likely more effective.
  • If you need to call law enforcement, tell them in advance that the patron is homeless. Police can certainly offer different resources for homeless folks than a law librarian can, but they will often handle a situation differently when homelessness is an issue. I’ve seen it happen, and it’s always been a more positive outcome than anticipated.
  • Keep thinking about your bed. I’m not suggesting that you pity the person in front of you, but at least be cognizant of the fact that the universe has given you a bed today, and act accordingly. What the universe giveth, the universe can taketh away.

How do you help your homeless patrons? Is it even an issue in your library?


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