#Critlib #feelings

This week’s critlib chat involves some homework, so here are some of my feels.

Why are you a critical librarian? Why do you identify with these ideas?

There isn’t a straight forward answer to either of these questions because there are so many reasons and places to start. I’ve always found value in caring for others and I’ve come to realize that recognizing others’ and my own humanity allows me to be most effective as a teaching librarian, possibly as a human too. I suppose this makes me a critical/feminist librarian, but I would say that while I identify with many ideas shared across the critlib community I do so to varying degrees and levels of understanding (I’m still learning!). I’m reading bell hooks and Paulo Freire and finding that a lot of what they have to say resonates with me and some of their ideas fit with my background in k-12 education, as a queer woman, and as a first generation college go-er, to name a few…

I really believe my role as a critical librarian is to provide opportunities for  learning and reflection, validate others’ experiences, challenge personal bias, and help shape the world into a place where I would like to live–free of racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and all of the other “isms” that run rampant in our culture.

Why do you participate in these chats?

First. Solidarity. And community. There are certain things that are discussed via critlib that aren’t discussed in many work environments. For me, it’s helpful to have an engaged community to learn from and share ideas with outside of my colleagues. It’s good to have that one hour every couple of weeks to dedicate to thinking through really challenging issues with like-minded folks.

Second. The chats get me to think about my own experiences and how I might effect change in my own practice as a librarian; how can I improve what I’m doing and raise awareness in myself and others?

Thank you, to the critlib organizers and all of those who participate in some capacity. I’m grateful to continually learn from you and find inspiration through our conversations.


Atlanta Zine Fest Fun

July is International Zine Month and many major cities and zine communities host workshops, events, and zine fests to celebrate, including Atlanta. This was the AZF’s third year and it was set to be bigger and better than ever. I hadn’t been to previous AZF events, and only had Chicago’s zine fest to compare, but I was excited by the schedule and programming. To hear more about it you can read these Creative Loafing and Burnaway magazine articles!

I’ve never made a zine that wasn’t part of a collaborative project, but I’ve made many books on my own. So, when I decided I was going to apply to be a part of the Atlanta Zine Fest I had a ton of prep work to do and it felt like I was putting myself out there in a new way. I wasn’t sure exactly what I would make. Initially, I thought I’d make something about being a librarian, but as soon as I was accepted I found inspiration in other unexpected areas of my life. I was seeing many posts on social media about people who were being harassed by others who were “trying to flirt” or hit on them. It was gross and I felt it needed to be addressed, so I made a zine on feminist flirting and got input from over twenty people! I also had a lot going on this past year with my own mental health, most of which I kept to myself but had finally processed enough that I felt I could put a tiny bit out into the universe in a thoughtful way, so I made a zine about the butterfly I raised last year which was a meditative and metaphoric process.

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Work in progress “Raising Wolfram” zine.
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Work in progress “Feminist Flirting” zine.
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Finished artists’ book self preservation book (from my RWL workshop), “Raising Wolfram”, and “Feminist Flirting” zines. Note: I’d just finished the feminist flirting zine and it still needed to be copied and assembled, but I was also enjoying a glass of wine while drawing the last few pages, when my cat decided to jump up onto my crowded desk. She spilled wine all over it and I almost cried; luckily it was white wine and the pages were just a little crinkly after that. None of the ink bled, miraculously. Lesson=do not keep beverages near your work when there is a cat in the house. An amateur mistake I won’t be making again.

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This was the cat tchotchke that I made (above and below). Each cat was given a famous author’s name in the form of a cat pun (Chuck Felineiuk, for example). I LOVED creating this–drawing the cats and coming up with the names was so fun. Thanks to my friend, Sarah Lu, for also helping me come up with a few of the names (she’s the best at puns). My favorite part of the day at Zine Fest was watching people react to the tchotchke and I nearly sold out of them. I’ve made them available as a download on Etsy so that you can print as many as you’d like to amuse yourself and your friends. There are future plans for another, dog-themed, tchotchke.2015-07-18 11.56.19Table set up at AZF, complete with my dear partner who stayed with me all day (Thank YOU! <3).
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I had an awesome time and am truly grateful for this experience and the people that I met through participating! Atlanta is looking a lot brighter these days and I’m looking forward to spending more time in the arts community. A huge thank you to everyone who stopped by my table. And thank you to Murmur Media and Eyedrum for hosting such a great event.2015-07-18 11.58.55

Spring Quarter

Life-long learning means so many different things to different people. Many librarians will tell you that it is highly important to them and something that they strive to foster in their communities. It’s certainly something that I strive for in myself, and something that I adore seeing in others–this passion for learning that is insatiable. I love that.

I’ve been quiet on my blog because I’ve been pouring most of my energy into my work. What little I have left has been going into my schoolwork. That’s right, I decided to start taking classes again. One of the amazing perks of working in an academic library is the opportunity to take classes (usually) for free from the school. So, before this quarter started, I compiled a portfolio, gathered my transcripts, and applied to the MFA writing program at SCAD. By my calculations, taking one class at a time will allow me to graduate in about 5 years, but I’m not in any rush. I thought long and hard about what I really wanted this degree for before applying. I could have applied to any number of programs, or just taken classes without applying or putting it towards a degree. The reasons I chose the writing program are simple: I knew it’d be a real challenge and it’d help me in my work as a librarian.

So far I was right about it being a challenge. SCAD is more rigorous than any of my previous schools. Not only that, but my work in the library is my number one priority and I love what I’m doing. Because I love it so dearly, I put a lot of energy into it. For the first time in my life my priority isn’t school, it’s the work, and that has been an interesting shift. I am happy that I work in an environment where I learn something, many things, every day. I learn from the students who I interact with, my colleagues, and the amazing, inspiring books at my finger tips. I want to be a better writer, but ultimately, I want to be a better librarian.

The first class that I was enrolled in (which is now in week 8/10) was Freelance Writing for Publication–a magazine writing course. This is something I never thought I’d be interested in doing and I’m still not sold. It’s given me a lot to consider for writing in general, though. It’s also sparked some new interest in magazines that I hadn’t really paid attention to for a while (Is this a scholarly source? No? Put it away. Ain’t nobody got time for that.). I’m also happy to take what I’ve learned and apply it to blogging, maybe. We’ll see.

This quarter I also spent some time in Portland, OR (one of the places I call home!) for the #critlib and ACRL 2015 conferences. It was both amazing and overwhelming. There was a lot of programming on the new ACRL Info Lit Framework and how to work with it to develop better library instruction. I also went to Puerto Rico for vacation. Both of these trips were needed. Both of these trips were incredibly disruptive of my work/class business. But, come on, look at this view and tell me it wasn’t worth it:

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It was so worth it.

In addition to the class and travels and work, I’ve been brainstorming creative projects to focus on this summer. One exciting creative project is the zine that I’m dreaming up for the Atlanta Zine Fest. I was just notified today that I got in as a vendor, so I can share some of my bookish creations at the fest but also need some zines. Maybe I’ll make more than one zine. Go crazy. Hog wild, even. Either way, it has to wait until after this quarter ends and my energy is back.

I Bring My Whole Self to Work.

There are so many things to consider when you’re up for a new job, particularly if said new job requires you to move. “Does it pay enough to justify the move?”; “What is the work environment like?”; “Will I like this new city?”; “Will I need to buy a car?”; and my favorite, “Are my future coworkers homophobic?”.

By the time I interviewed at SCAD, I’d definitely encountered toxic work environments where homophobia and transphobia (not to mention racism) was alive and well. Several of the libraries where I had interviews had also given me less-than-progressive vibes. In job hunting, as well as in life, I do my best to make it known that I’m part of the LGBTQ community. Which is why I showed up to my interview with a freshly cut mullet (that was an accident, but I’m sure it cued them in a bit none-the-less) and a resume sprinkled with LGBTQ service work.

I recently discovered that 51% of employees were not out to anyone at work in 2009 (Degrees of Equality, HRC). My guess would be that this number has decreased since 2009 since there has been progress in the fight for equality for the LGBTQ community, but for now we’ll stick with this number. Over half. To me, that is unacceptable. Part of my responsibility as a librarian is to help make people feel welcomed and safe in the library, regardless of any part of their identity. I’ve witnessed otherwise in libraries and I can say that it was my most painful professional experience. So, part of my approach to dealing with any potential issue around this subject is to be open, entirely, with those around me about who I am. It allows me to make space for others and it allows me to bring my whole self to work.

I’m not saying that every LGBTQ person should throw caution to the wind and out themselves, but there are serious benefits to being open. This helpful guide about coming out at work (HRC) may be of use to some who need to assess their unique situation more.

When it came time to assess my situation, I had a lot weighing on the scales. My new job was in the south, Georgia, where there is less acceptance and no non-discriminatory laws in place to protect people of differing sexual and gender representations. It’s one of the last states to allow same-sex marriage. This is the hometown of Chick-Fil-A. These facts made me nervous. So, during my interview I casually mentioned my partner, my concerns for moving to the south and the LGBTQ community, and gauged the responses that I got: They were all positive and reassuring, across the board. SCAD is incredibly diverse and progressive and I was even more delighted to find that my coworkers and boss were as well. Good. I couldn’t have made this move if I wasn’t working with people who valued me for who I am as well as the professional skills I bring to the library.

I love making.

I started an Etsy account way back in 2011, as a way to sell some bike kerchiefs that I was making at the time. A month or so ago I started making microfiche earrings, books, cardigan clips, and bracelets to sell on my Etsy; I actually really wanted to find a good cardigan clip and wasn’t satisfied with what I was finding on Etsy so I thought I’d make my own. That’s what started this whole thing. Then, I realized I have some vintage jewelry and clothes that I don’t really need or wear, so why not add those in?

I’m not great at promoting my shop, but I’ve still had several sales since breathing new life into it this year. I’m really happy to know that many of my friends, and even some strangers, are wearing some of my creations and vintage treasures.


My favorite collar clip that I’ve made, using vintage buttons and upcycled chains.20150110_145842

A funky bracelet made with dental xrays and vintage chain. 20150118_105933

Sweet little southern Oregon map journal, using very special paper that I bought when I was living in Budapest for the summer. I was pretty obsessed with all the different little graph papers, but the notebooks themselves were so flimsy. My solution? Mixing it all together and binding it into a solid hardcover journal.

Microfiche film bracelet.


Another collar/cardigan clip using vintage beads and buttons.mfb6And finally, the very unique microfiche earrings!

Should you visit the shop and want to purchase something, please use the coupon code “ACORNBLOG” for free shipping on all orders over $10 (expires Feb 28)!


In September, before I was officially offered the research and instruction librarian position, I had one of those unnerving tooth dreams. The kind of dream that is so real it leaves you constantly tonguing your mouth to make sure it wasn’t a real life event. This was different from any other tooth dream I’d ever had: No loose teeth (read: feeling unsettled and unsure about something), no crumbling teeth (read: fear of getting older), and no losing my teeth (read: anxiety, loss of control, and fear of failure). No, in this dream, I grew EXTRA teeth and it was possibly more disturbing than any of the other tooth dream scenarios. Like a shark, I grew another row of teeth.

Of course, I waited a few days before Googling what that meant. I assumed all toothy dreams related to anxiety and loss on some level. What I found when I went searching was quite the opposite. Growing extra teeth represents new opportunities, or  graduating to a new stage in one’s career. You see, we have two sets of teeth; our baby teeth and adult teeth. Additional teeth growing in and/or replacing our adult teeth “signifies a very positive message that [one has] an abundance of opportunities available to them that will retrieve positive results”.

Huh. Unnerving as it was, this dream was absolutely positive. I’d reached a milestone in my life and in my career and my subconscious recognized this growth, interpreting it for me in a most unsettling way. Shortly after, I was offered the job that I would accept and move to Atlanta, GA for.

I’ve been in this position since November, but Winter Quarter was the first opportunity that I had to teach and take full responsibility for the instruction happening in the library. Each quarter is only ten weeks long, and I’ve taught approximately 25 classes, given several library orientations, and met one-on-one with over 20 students–this sounds exhausting when I write it out like that. The truth is, it isn’t. It’s far less exhausting than it was to work multiple part-time jobs, volunteer, and apply to new jobs in my “free time”. I find myself in a comfortable, busy, productive and creative space as I settle into these responsibilities and my new community. Exactly as my dream predicted I am garnering positive results and I am growing into my profession.


Job Seeking Advice / Just Keep Trying

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Last weekend I had the opportunity to participate in the ARLISNAP/VREPS virtual conference entitled “Visualizing the future: new perspectives in art librarianship”. I was a part of the advice roundtable focused on transitioning from student to professional and job searching–topics that I am VERY familiar with. Unfortunately, the conference was running on the long side and we were slated to go last; I didn’t get to share as much advice as I’d hoped because I was pretty wiped and we were cut short. I’ll try to share my advice here instead:

In November 2014 I landed and started my first full-time position as a librarian. Not only that, but at a school that I’d always hoped (but never expected) to work at: Savannah College of Art and Design. It is, quite literally, my dream job. As the reference and instruction librarian I work directly with students and faculty, providing library instruction on all of the wonderful, artsy subjects taught here at SCAD. I get to develop workshops outside of the class instruction, which are a bit more experimental and creative. And I work with truly amazing people.

My transition from student to FT professional took just over two years. In that amount of time I held four various, part-time library positions. I felt all of the frustration that many in our field feel when trying to land their first FT position while trying to piecemeal part-time positions to get experience and pay the bills. In 2014 I applied to a total of 23 jobs and had at least one interview with 8 of those institutions. I learned some valuable lessons while interviewing for those jobs that I didn’t get: 1) They weren’t for me. 2) I’m really awkward on Skype. 3) Keep trying because later you can consider what feels like beating your head against a wall “practice” for the one application/interview that leads to a job.

At some point I had THREE first-round interviews for the same job, without progressing to the second-round each time. I was convinced that it was the perfect job for me, but in all reality, it wasn’t. While I am grateful that I didn’t get this job and landed where I did instead, this was still an incredibly draining experience. However, I kept at it and became methodical in my applications. Once they were sent off and added to my spreadsheet (where I kept track of my applications) I didn’t worry about them. After the job that I thought was for me but wasn’t turned me down for a third time I created what I called my “dream job description”. It included everything in that job posting plus bits and pieces from several others. I got serious about acquiring the experience listed in that fictional, patchwork description I’d made and incorporated it into what I was doing in my part-time and volunteer positions. This helped. A lot.

This is my first bit of advice: Know what you want (in terms of job responsibilities) and identify the gaps in your experience that may make it difficult for you to achieve what you want. Then, one-by-one, find ways to get that exact experience. I’ve thought, several times, that I wish we’d looked at more job descriptions during library school, instead of talking about theory. I know that this advice brings us back to the age-old problem of “but I can’t get experience if nobody will give me a job”, which leads me to my second bit of advice:

Make your volunteer/internship/part-time paraprofessional position work for you: This means that any old volunteering (i.e. shelving books) will not do. It’s almost inevitable that most of us end up in volunteer, internship or paraprofessional positions before we land that first job, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be picky about those positions and what they do for you. Resume padding won’t cut it with how competitive the job market is, so I would encourage you to seek positions (while in school or just after if you need experience) that allow you to experiment with your professional skill set and challenge you. If you’re in a position currently that doesn’t challenge you, find ways to make it challenging. Ask yourself how this position is helping you grow/serving you? If you are working for very little/free you should be getting as much out of it as the organization you’re working for. Putting yourself in this kind of position takes self-motivation and maybe a little risk-taking, but it is also way more rewarding than just shelving books. It’s what kept me from burning out during the job hunt process.

My example that I’ll share is my volunteer experience at the Read/Write Library. When I started volunteering there in January 2013, I knew I wanted to REALLY be involved but I wasn’t sure how yet. My first meeting the director said that the library needed an outreach coordinator and I immediately volunteered, without any real idea what that entailed. It tuned out to entail whatever I wanted, essentially. My first project was the Read/Write BiblioTreka. I worked, collaboratively, on a number of really amazing projects while at the Read/Write and I was happy that some of them were less involved and some of them were more involved, allowing me to get pretty significant project/event management experience and work more on those “soft skills” you need to effectively work in teams. I could have just staffed the library from time to time and listed it on my resume, but my experience was far richer because I wanted to make an impact and I was so eager to use my creative and professional skills.

Collaborate: They say to “fake it ’til you make it”. But I think that working with others on big projects is a better way to go about learning. This way, everyone gets to use their particular skill set and grow where they need to grow by taking notes from their peers. I’ve learned a great deal from collaborating with people at Read/Write as well as my book arts partner-in-crime, Michelle. We started our collaborative, complimentary relationship while we were Smithsonian interns and have worked on community outreach projects, co-coordinate a professional group, and have co-presented at conferences. We also live in different cities. It has never once felt like we were “faking it” when we’ve worked together because we are there to support one another when needed and can trust each others’ strengths.

Being involved in professional organizations in some capacity has made it easy to collaborate and learn from others in the field, but it can be difficult if you’re volunteering for a national organization as opposed to a local org. The local org allows you to get to know the people you’re working with a bit more and it’s likely you’ll get to meet with collaborators more often. My experience with serving on national committees has been a mixed bag, but I have limited experience with it. My preference is always to work with people that I know on a personal level, though. I also have a lot of friends who frequently (and successfully) collaborate on professional endeavors with their partners, which is as personal as you can get.

Develop a strong support network: This includes those that you collaborate with, library friends who can commiserate with you about the job market, and people willing to be references and sounding boards. Personally, the part that I hate most about applying to jobs is asking people to write letters on my behalf. Providing a phone reference isn’t so bad, but I always try to be considerate of others’ time when I list them as a reference. Always make sure that those you list as references really know and can speak to your professional accomplishments and interests. Give them plenty of notice if you are listing them, as well. I typically shared my cover letters and resumes with other job seekers to get feedback, and offered to do the same for them when the time came. The people who supported me throughout my job search are golden and I’m convinced I couldn’t have kept up my morale without them.

Friendly networking: Another one of the panelists mentioned that she is a fan of “friendly networking”; I would agree. Connecting with people at conferences and in the professional world can be intimidating for the newbies, but it is better to make one solid, genuine connection than hand out 100 of your business cards and call it a day. My current boss was someone that I had developed a rapport with over email and then met briefly at a conference last year. Not only had we corresponded regarding the professional organization that we’re both a part of, but we’d also connected over the fact that we both lived in Portland at some point/watched Portlandia. It’s kind of silly, but when it came time to interview with her I was much more confident knowing that we had already built that friendly rapport and that I liked her as a person and as colleague. Now, I’m incredibly fortunate to call her my boss.

Thoughts on websites: A website is a really nice way to showcase what you’ve done on your resume. It’s a good place to provide an example of those web and tech skills listed. Other panelists did not think that a website was as helpful, some pointed to linkedin as a better option. Whether you have a web presence via a personal website or social media like twitter and linkedin, make it count for something–keep it updated and fresh. I started my website as a student, to fulfill my capstone requirement, but after graduation it has evolved to what it is now. I like highlighting my projects that I talk about in my application materials with photos and stories. I also like showing that I make artwork and have other interests besides those on my resume. Some may tell you that job seekers don’t look at websites, but based on my website stats I would argue that I see a drastic increase of visitors when I’ve had applications and interviews.

Rejection sucks: But it’s part of the process. Unfortunately, if you’re a sensitive soul like me, it can really get to you. I encourage you not to let it get to you because:

The right fit: Every time someone mentioned the “right fit” while I was job hunting I wanted to scream. In my mind, ALL of the jobs I was applying for “fit” (Okay, maybe only most of them fit). It wasn’t until I was offered my current job AND another job at the same time that I realized that ALL of the other jobs I’d applied for weren’t right for me and the position at SCAD was the best fit, above the other job I’d been offered by a landslide. The position that I turned down was a job I could have easily done, but would have maxed out after a year. I saw little room for professional growth in my responsibilities and worried that it would only be another stepping stone in my process. I did not want to be on the job market (and moving) again in a year! It is true, that finding the right fit is key and takes time, but you’ll know when you do.

It’s been a crazy two years, but I am so grateful that I stuck it out and that I had such wonderful people to support me throughout the process (friends, family, collaborators, my lovely partner). Thank you Thank you Thank you.

Also, I’m still incredibly awkward on skype, so I’m happy that I was able to share my experience in writing after the virtual conference. :)

ARLIS/NA in Washington, DC

First, let me say that I LOVE Washington, DC.  I think that the city is amazing and the library community is exceptionally vibrant and awesome.  The ARLIS/NA conference was held in DC this year and I’ve been planning on attending this conference since my internship at the Smithsonian two summers ago.  I’m going to do a very brief recap and include some photos.




Topics I learned more about at the conference (or got really excited about):

  • Copyright and fair use
  • The People’s Library Project
  • Makerspaces in libraries
  • Budgets and collection development policies for Artists’ books
  • Book art thesaurus project
  • Rare book librarianship (=Custodianship, stewardship, advocacy, and outreach)
  • Using visual literacy to market library services
  • Current/possible collaborations between libraries/archives and artists
  • Feminism and wikipedia: a social movement

*I took about 10 pages of notes on these topics, but I’ll spare you.


Some fun things I did while in DC (outside of the conference):

  • Visited the Hirshhorn to see the Barbara Krueger exhibit
  • Ate at a super fancy restaurant called Rogue 24
  • Walked around and listened to Bluebrain’s National Mall location-aware app-album
  • Visited friends and made new ones at the conference



How I participated in the conference:

  • Attended as many workshops as I could fit in
  • Presented on my outreach work and the BiblioTreka at Read/Write Library
  • Taught a free workshop at Pyramid Atlantic on the self-preservation of artists’ books
  • Led the book art special interest group meeting with my friend/co-coordinator Michelle

image_8All in all, I learned a lot and I packed a LOT into the 5 days that I was in DC.  There were a number of social events that were exhausting but fun.  We also got to “party” in the Library of Congress (if you call giving overly tired, mentally exhausted, introverted librarians an open bar and a light dinner a party).