To Read Tues: Recommended Reading Twitter Question

24/01/2012 § 13 Comments

Card Catalog, Burrow Library

We got a question on Twitter over the weekend about reading material for LIS: 

RT @brandontlocke: Any recommended reads for aspiring/future MLIS students?

It is difficult to respond to such a question in 140 characters or less. I made the attempt by suggesting reputable blogs and e-news sources for LIS information and fiction for mind expansion (and fun!). Feeling that a little more was needed I have expanded with advice, links and resources.

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Leadership in the Library Industry

17/10/2011 § 6 Comments

View of the British Library Reading Room. Photographed by Hugh Chevallier. Posted here under a Creative Commons License.

I love theory. The ideas that disciplines and professions are based off of. The bedrock of our world views. The base of our ideologies.

Some of my favorite courses in library school were the foundation courses. At the time they were frustrating, because I wanted to be working in a library. But now that I am working in the field, I appreciate those theory courses the most.

I find LIS theory to be a fascinating creature. We have our own theorists (like Ranganathan, Dervin and Kuhlthau) but we are also a discipline of adoptive theory. Communication, education, business and management, sociology, gender studies, even engineering theories (HCI and UX principles are starting to take over the profession) are all relevant to LIS.

One of the last required foundation classes I took was Management and Leadership in the Library Industry. While most of the class discussions were focused on Taylorism and Scientific Management versus more current humanist approaches to management, our instructor provided a very interesting recommended reading list. On it were authors whose books are typically found on the shelves of business sections: Stephen R. Covey, John P. Kotter, Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel H. Pink and Peter F. Drucker. I’ll admit: at first I scoffed at these books. Having a background in sociology, I want my theorist to be a bit grittier (and a bit more European): Foucault, Durkheim, Marx, Marcuse and Weber. So I pretty much stuck to the required reading and was none the wiser…

…until recently. I had a good friend (and non-librarian) recommend Good to Great by Jim Collins. This was a title that was on that recommended reading list, and one that I normally pass over. But the friend who recommended it was not someone I would think of as reading it: she spent a number of years selling fair-trade organic coffee, has spent a fair amount of time traveling in Africa and Latin America (including Chiapas, land of the Zapatista) and only recently started working for a corporation (Whole Foods) because of the horrible economy. Not exactly your rank-and-file corporate worker. So I had to check this book out.

Much to my surprise, I am really enjoying it, and finding much of Collins’ ideas surrounding leadership 100% applicable to libraries.

The most relevant lesson taken away so far is what Collins calls “the window and the mirror” theory:

“[Top-tier] leaders look out the window to apportion credit to factors outside themselves when things go well….At the same time, they look in the mirror to apportion responsibility, never blaming bad luck when things go poorly. The comparison leaders did just the opposite. They’d look out the window for something or someone outside themselves to blame for poor results, but would preen in front of the mirror and credit themselves when things went well. (Collins, Good to Great, p. 35)”

Collins uses steel producing companies to exemplify this idea. CEOs of mediocre companies would look out the window and see internationally produced cheap steel as the reason why their companies were not reaching their potential. While the CEOs of top steel companies saw the internationally produced cheap steel as an opportunity. The competing companies would have to ship the steel to the US at exorbitant prices, giving the American companies a distinct advantage. Likewise, these top companies look at their own operations for ways to improve their business, rather than blame outside factors for their failures.

I think the window/mirror theory is an excellent mindset not just for individual leaders, but for the library industry as a whole. We could look at declining circulation counts or reference questions as a factor out of our control that is pushing our services to the periphery. Or, we can look at the changing information searching behaviors of our patrons as an opportunity to offer innovative services and resources that exceeds our users expectations.

For example: In 2009, Project Information Literacy released a progress report, with findings that describes course readings, Google and instructors as the first resources students turn to when researching topics for their school work, and librarians as an overlooked resource. Looking for external factors to blame for lack of library use, this study could be a shining example. Instead, we should look at the fact that students are rarely seeking out librarians as an opportunity to create new services (such as embedded librarianship or collaborating with instructors and faculty) to better assist students. And we should be looking at our current services for potential areas of improvement.

It is widely know that we live in a time of change. Libraries of all types are facing major budget cuts, and we are fighting tooth and nail for what resources we do receive. Rather than being Chicken Littles about it, looking out the window to avoid falling pieces of the sky, we should be looking at the changes we face as the new reality and continue to offer excellent services and exceed our users expectations. Now is the time to ensure our place as leaders in the fight for a citizenry who is not just information literate, but information fluent.

I know that this book has been out for over a decade, and some of the companies that Collins have listed as “great” companies have been the most affected by our current recession (such as the now defunct Circuit City), but Good to Great is still an excellent read. It’s worth checking out. But, as my hero Levar Burton often said: “You don’t have to take my word for it…”

To-Read Tuesday [Banned Books edition]

27/09/2011 § 2 Comments

In honor of Banned and Challenged Books Week (Sept 24-Oct 1), we’d like to share some of our new and old banned favorites with you! Join in the conversation in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ and spread the word during this fantastic week to celebrate the freedom to read!


  • Favorite: I can’t pick one! I’d have to say Native Son by Richard Wright, Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.
  • Reading this week: Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson and Lord of the Flies by William Golding and I’m also leading a Banned/Challenged Books Book Discussion at my library.


  • Favorite: one of the more famous banned books: Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I love it so much I have this t-shirt. Also George Orwell’s 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. These three books are incredible, and I could write a super long list of other ones I like too.
  • Reading this week: One of the unfortunate side effects of doctoral studies is that I don’t really get to read pleasure books except for about 5 minutes before bed, and since my brain is so mushy by the time I crawl into bed I’ve just started reading kids’ books. Right now it’s Grimm’s Fairy Tales, which I’m sure in one of its many incarnations has been banned at some point.
  • Favorite: I also can’t choose just one!  Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison: in college, I took a class on just this book.  blew. my. mind.  The Awakening by Kate Chopin: I haven’t read this book since high school, but I still remember the heated discussion our class had over the ending. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell: Seriously, how could you ban penguins?
  • Reading this week:  I think we should be reading banned books all year long! This week I’m not reading a banned book because I’m too caught up with a recent release (The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson) that I just can’t put down! I wouldn’t be surprised if someone eventually challenged it.
  • Favorite: Oh, man… Maybe it’s a cliche, but Catcher in the Rye seriously changed the course of my life.  Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden are also up there.  When I was in middle school the librarian went out of her way to order these for me from the high school library, so I have a soft spot for the intellectual freedom implications.  I wasn’t really ready for them then, but when I re-read them as an adult, I was floored.  It was spiritual.
  • Reading this week: I’m re-reading Julia Mickenberg, Philip Nel, and Jack Zipes’s Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children’s Literature.  Julia Mickenberg also wrote Learning from the Left: Children’s Literature, the Cold War, and Radical Politics in the United States, and she’s a big favorite. Little Rebels contains a huge collection of radical kid’s lit organized by theme from the early 1900s on, reproduced in facsimiles, with author/illustrator bios and some critical commentary.  Political challenges aren’t as sexy as they used to be, but it’s oh-so-good!  The Marxist abecedarian alone is worth a look.
  • Favorite: My all-time favorite books are Grapes of Wrath, The Handmaid’s Tale, and To Kill A Mockingbird all of which were, surprisingly, assigned reading in high school.  I went to a fairly liberal private high school where we were encouraged to question authority and engage critically with assignments.  I would probably not the book lover I am today without these one.
  • Reading this week: The Hunger Games because I’m co-planning a huge event for the public library for the movie release in March.  (For the record, I am and will always be Team Gale!)
  • Favorite: I have a few favorites but among them are: Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (she’s one of my favorite authors) and The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. After I read The Jungle, I didn’t eat hot dogs for YEARS. I read it in middle school and it opened my eyes to the way workers were treated pre-union days.
  • Reading this week: Not sure! My student group is doing a Banned Books event and we’re reading out from our banned book of choice. I might choose Heart of Darkness.

LIS Blogs to Read

29/08/2011 § 9 Comments

Everyone’s getting ready to go back to school, including your fellow hackers! Part of the library school experience is keeping up with what’s going on in the library world. That way you can discuss the latest trends or scandals with your classmates and professors.

We’ve compiled a few library related blogs that you should check out if you haven’t already.

Annie: I have always enjoyed these two blogs, they both put out great content. Both are collaborative just like HackLibSchool. Team work makes the dream work.

Lauren: There are so many fantastic LIS blogs out there (there is a partial list on my blogroll of some of my favorites), but I’d like to give a shout-out to two relatively new, incredibly enthusiastic and talented academic librarians who also have awesome blogs! They are:

Rose: Here are two must-read archives blogs that I love.  The first is about archives 2.0, the future of archives on the web, and the profession itself.  The second is a collaborative blog by the Smithsonian’s archives featuring their collections (full disclosure: as a volunteer for the National Anthropological Archives, I sometimes post on this blog).

Turner: My first recommendation offers sage advice from an academic librarian. The second is put out by the Library of Congress and focuses on digital collections (a growing trend in the library/information management profession and a great place to look for a kick ass job).

Micah: I know this is supposed to be an LIS focused post, but lately I’ve been thinking and rethinking the library blog “echo chamber” (everyone writing about the same things, reading one another’s work, and not engaging outside our field). So my Blogs to Read goes a little outside the LIS world, and it’d be my advice to students to step back once in a while and read something new from marketing, from tech news, from pop culture. These two blogs are both in the “hack” stream, but are great resources for ideas/tips/advice on navigating life in the university.

To-Read Tuesday

19/07/2011 § 13 Comments

While our lovely Annie recovers from the summer flu, let’s share some of our favorite summer reads… anything! What are you reading? What do you want to be reading? What book can you not leave home without on your summer vacation? What do you read to cheer you up when you’re sick?

I’ll start.

Heidi – I’m reading a lot of YA right now. Some of it is older (Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli) and some of it is new (Shiver, Linger, Forever by Maggie Stiefvater). I’m reading YA for a couple of reasons – 1 – entertaining and engaging characters – 2- I am not as familiar with YA authors and need to do some severe weeding and rebuilding in my library’s collection. I’m also reading a book about quilting because if I ever have spare time I want to sew a quilt.

Your turn!

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