Press it

I have a habit of sticking things inside books for safe keeping.  Flowers, notes, ticket stubs from things I want to remember but don’t want to become clutter.  My partner likes to keep things she finds out in the woods in books, too.  It gave me an idea to make her a book specifically FOR pressing things like ferns and leaves and anything else she finds and wants to keep.  We’ll think of this book as a work in progress, because I plan on adding some envelopes and pockets to the pages for smaller natural items.  The book is made of mostly recycled materials (old file folders, paper that I made out of old clothing scraps from a few years ago, and found book cloth).  I wanted it to be archival quality, sturdy, and able to press somewhat thick natural objects, without putting stress on the spine, hence the accordion folded spine and room for expansion.

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I used old rub-on lettering for the labels.photo 2photo 3

When the book has stuff in it, being pressed, it is tied tightly shut.  I think if I make another book like this, I’d like to use a thicker bristol board for the pages, even though the file folders are aesthetically pleasing and work just fine so far I worry about whether they’ll hold up over time and lots of use.

Out with the bad technology habits.

One of my New Years resolutions was to be more active on social media, while cutting out some of my Facebook time. I’ve been slowly weening myself off of Facebook, starting last year. I wasn’t connecting with anyone in a very genuine way and I wasn’t contributing to any kind of important, social dialog. When I decided to get a smart phone I realized I spent a lot of time on FB, but I hadn’t become more engaged. Here’s how I’ve been getting more engaged while fixing bad tech habits:

1) I banned my computer from my bedroom. It sounds crazy, but it works. Not sharing a bed with my laptop has been extremely helpful in the last 6 months. I read more books and I rest when I need to rest. I’m more productive when I need to be.

2) Unfollow your friends who do nothing but post about their meals, rant, and generously share play-by-plays of their day. While it is important to maintain personal relationships with social media, I find this kind of information less than stimulating, sometimes irritating, and useless. I’m trying to stick to real conversations and check-ins with friends. I’ve started following more organizations and people who are doing interesting things with their careers (especially my creative and library friends). It’s inspiring, and on the days that I can contribute to that conversation, I feel good about it.

3) Shut your phone/all devices off at night. For that matter, don’t bother looking at them first thing in the morning, either. I just came across this HuffPost article about checking your email in the morning, which I have noticed can serve as a bigger distraction than anything else.

So, how do you wake up? I have turned back to a regular alarm clock. NPR wakes me up and tells me the weather for the day; it’s been refreshing to ignore my devices until I’ve at least showered.

4) I’ve recently been working on the social media guide for the library I work at, which has also helped me think about my actual presence on social media. Creating content is something that many people have gotten away from with the ability to simply “share” others’ content (articles, status, happenings), but having your own voice is important if you’re going to feel engaged at all in what’s happening on social media. If you share something, add some commentary. Why are you sharing what you’re sharing? Put a little of yourself out there (not all of it, nobody needs to see those photos). I have to remind myself of this at times.

5) One habit that I’ve always maintained is to never, ever allow “push notifications” from the platforms I use for social media. I’ve been in the room when someone’s phone is beeping/buzzing/flashing constantly because their friends are updating their twitter. There’s nothing more distracting from the present and in this way, you’re never “off”.

In the end, limiting my time on my devices has been helpful. Using social media is more enjoyable when it is more intentional.

RWL + MCA + Artists’ Books = <3

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As part of the Read/Write Library‘s Self Preservation series, I am teaching a workshop at the Museum of Contemporary Art on preserving artists’ books.  The event is part of the MCA studio nights and is happening on Feb 4, 2014.

Participants will leave with a hand letterpressed copy of the book that I am editioning just for this event, some knowledge about how to care for these special collections/art objects, and it’s FREE with your museum admission.

One Librarian’s New Years Resolutions

Happy 2014!  Each year I find that my resolutions become more and more about growth and intentionality in my life.  Last year, I made huge personal and professional goals happen.  I became involved with Read/Write Library and launched the BiblioTreka pop-up library bike program (it was stolen), presented at a professional conference, and landed my first professional librarian job!

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This year I have a few resolutions that pertain to my goals as a librarian as well.

1) Seek out opportunities in the area of community outreach, instruction, social media, and creative work/research. For a while, I’ve attempted to say YES! to any and all professional development opportunities that have come my way–It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you say yes to too many things, and so this year I hope to be more selective about what I take on. 
2) Work on a project worth writing about.  And then try to get it published. This is an area of my professional development that has not been developed just yet. I’ve written blogs for professional organizations, but now I want to set the bar higher and write about what I do in a more formal way.
3) Bring as much creativity to my libraries as I possibly can. When I think about my personal goals, they relate to creativity and self-expression. But my work is also so much more rewarding and fun (work should still be fun) when I get to problem solve using the creative part of my brain. It feels as though I’m in two professional situations where creativity is appreciated and encouraged as well. I want to keep it that way moving forward in my career.
4) Revive the BiblioTreka program at the Read/Write Library (we’re launching a fundraiser in the near future)! It was discouraging, to say the least, to have a program and a precious cultural artifact snatched from us. It hurt. I launched the program, with a great deal of generosity and effort from others, in order to help share our collections. It’s important to me to relaunch this program and continue that mission.
5) Be more active on social media, specifically my website, twitter, and on behalf of the libraries I work/volunteer at! Less Facebook.
6) Visit art museums and go to shows and happenings as much as possible. I want to take advantage of Chicago’s rich arts culture more frequently, while I’m still here.

I’ll be posting about my progress in all of these areas throughout the year!  Good luck in all of your resolutions!

Reader’s Advisory: Memory

I’ve found myself fascinated with memory.  Whether it’s my own personal memories or stories others share based on what is remembered.  Our lives, our histories (collective and personal), are the sum of our memories.  I think that the topic of memory itself calls into question what is real and what is perceived reality and this has long been a popular theme in literature, as it is something we all relate to on some level.  Recently, I read two books that render memory as a topic directly and thoughtfully.  Even though one of these literary works is fiction and one is non-fiction, they both tell wonderful, thought-provoking stories.

ImageMoonwalking with Einstein (non-fiction – 2012) by Joshua Foer shares the author’s adventures in the world of competitive memory.  Foer is a science journalist and this is the most interesting example of participatory journalism I have ever read.  Upon hearing about the national and international memory competitions he begins his research by talking to some of the top competitors in the world to gain insight; they eventually become his teachers.  As it turns out, anyone can improve their memory with a great deal of discipline and practice, but Foer takes it to the extreme by improving so much he becomes one of the top competitors and experts on the subject in the US.  I found myself pondering my own memory potential and even tried some of the techniques the author mentions and learns from his friends and mentors.  Additionally, the book is fast-paced and beautifully written, which makes it ideal for a leisurely read on a light-hearted subject.

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Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane (fiction – 2013) immediately grabbed my attention and brought me back to the introspective childhood of a young boy from England.  This short, poetic adult novel showcases Gaiman’s impeccable storytelling abilities and reminds readers that our childhoods shape who we become, but it’s often muddled memories that we rely on to recount those formative years.  As the main character unlocks the memories of his childhood we learn that he was a bookish, intelligent, and gentle boy at the age of 7, but the entire world was outside of his control.  Gaiman spins a rich tale of a magical, though dark, transformation from the simplicity to sorrow of childhood and through the boy’s eyes it all feels very real.  A quick, captivating, read for anyone who enjoys fantastical stories.

ALA Annual in a nutshell

Well, I survived my first Annual ALA conference.

Barely.

Ok.  It was a lot of fun, there was so much positive energy mixed with nervous introvert energy, and I was reminded that I think librarians are just great.  Polite.  Kind.  I enjoy that part of my profession very much (the people).

It doesn’t matter that we all looked a little befuddled and lost while wandering around the conference and city of Chicago–we all managed to maintain our composure and manners:

I have no excuses–I live here.

Anyhow.  The sessions I attended were really informative and it was wonderful to see so many creative ideas presented and shared.  One of the best programs that I saw was “Hip Histories: Promoting archives and special collections through creative programming” and it was really inspiring.

That program was put on by the staff at Sacramento Public Library.  A few other programs I attended were geared towards public libraries.  I hadn’t realized, until recently, how well my interests fit within public libraries vs. academic libraries.  But there are really creative programs and outreach opportunities in the public realm that simply don’t exist in the academic realm.

I also attended several Freedom to Read Foundation and Office of Intellectual Freedom meetings and events, which were all very informative.  I gave two presentations (slides will be posted to the website soonish!).  I learned my lesson and will only attempt to present ONCE at future conferences.

I also learned a valuable lesson about vendors and exhibit halls: That business is OVERWHELMING!  My advice is to visit the exhibit hall and vendors in short spurts, preferably early in the day.  The first day, I went in the evening and probably stayed too long because by the end of it I was ready to crawl under a table and hide.  But, the next few days I would go for about a half an hour to an hour and try to see a different part of it first thing in the morning.  I’d pop in and out, depending on where my sessions were and how much time I had between.  I also learned that FREE BOOKS ARE AWESOME!  I picked up several and am now completely out of shelf space in my apartment.

All in all I had a great time, am feeling a little squirrelly, and will now spend the next six months in hiding while I make my way through this pile of books.

Never underestimate work experience that wasn’t in a library!

People are often shocked when I tell them that I used to work in a bike shop.  But, it’s true: I worked at a bike shop for nearly two years and I learned a lot.

I’ve realized recently that it was my bike shop experience that helped me get the Read/Write BiblioTreka up and running for the library. 

I also believe that it was my bike shop where I honed true customer service skills and a love for working with every kind of customer and patron.  I learned patience as I practiced explaining technical (and mechanical) workings to people who were equally as nervous about their lack of understanding of bicycles as a freshmen in college who has never searched a database or complex library catalog.  Putting people at ease about their anxiety related to bicycles transfers to the reference desk and the circulation desk.

Though I don’t include this experience on my professional resume, I know that it serves me in a very important and meaningful way. 

Did they teach me THIS in Library School?

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Not exactly.  But they taught me a lot of other neat things that probably propelled me in this direction!

I’m so excited that just a few months ago I casually mentioned that the Read/Write Library “should have a bike for outreach and pop-up libraries” and someone said, “GO FOR IT.”

And I did.

The Read/Write BiblioTreka will be trekkin’ to the Comfort Station‘s Thursday night shows each week, art openings, and street fests all summer long!  Follow the bike on Twitter for more info!

Presenting at ALA

Welcome to Spring in Chicago (finally!).  It’s been a very long, cold winter here in the Windy City and I can say with certainty that I am ready to enjoy some sunshine and productivity that does not include holing up in my apartment and applying to things.  I’m excited to get out on the Read/Write Library Bicycle mostly (more on that project later!).

I’m also really looking forward to the Big ALA Conference here in Chicago.  It’s happening at the end of June.  The conference itself should be fantastic, but I am hoping that people from the library community I left in Portland will attend and it will be an opportunity for me to show them around Chicago. 

This is also my first library conference that I am presenting at!  I have two presentations: One ignite session (that’s a five minute diddy) and one co-presentation for the ACRL Arts section meeting.  The ignite session will focus on the volunteer work that many librarians are doing outside of their day jobs in order to engage with their community.  This is something that I’ve realized is remarkably important to me as a professional and as a human being and I know that I am not alone in that sentiment.  The other presentation is focused on providing outreach for hidden arts collections; I’m collaborating with my friend and co-intern from the Smithsonian on this presentation and could not be more excited to share our collective experience and thoughts! 

All in all, I’d say all of that applying and proposal writing over the cold winter months has been positive given this particular outcome.