Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Roving with Elegance: The Solution to the Nametag Dilemma?

A few months ago, my library system informally polled us about our feelings on wearing name tags. Like the librarian blogosphere overall, I felt divided. We should be approachable - but we should also be professional, not like waitresses or cashiers.

Luckily, here at a medical library, I had an easy way out - I opined that we should just wear the same official hospital badges worn by everyone from the surgeons to the janitors. Technically, the library staff is already supposed to wear them, but since we're not around lootable pharmacuticals or confidential patient records, no one really bothers. I'm not sure what conclusion they've come to on the main campus.

But for those of you on the fence about nametags, I have a lovely suggestion:

I got this as a graduation gift for my MLIS from friends, who found it at the gift shop of the Vancouver Public Library. It's made by a delightfully traditionalist British firm, Thomas Fattorini (who also make badges and crests bearing titles like Games Captain and House Prefect*).

It is an elegant thing, with a nice weight to it - not chintzy or plastic. It clearly indicates a professional title. (I hold a hope that this might distinguish me from the undergraduate student assistants, something my own appearance is apparently insufficient to do.) I'm half considering wearing it to ALA in the hopes of starting my networking on the plane trip or in the hotel: wearing it inside the convention hall would, of course, be stating the obvious.

What do you think? Is this still too commerical? Is it so discreet as to be pointless? Or could this be a useful compromise?

*They will custom engrave badges, so if anyone is still doing Harry Potter programs, I bet they'll make you one that says Quidditch Captain.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Zotero win

From the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

A Virginia Circuit Court judge dismissed a lawsuit this morning against George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media.

Score one for the good guys!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Doing it in Public: Reading as Subversive Activity

I just discovered the delightful group library blog Closed Stacks, and one particular (old) post caught my attention: Read and you read alone.

Blogger The Librarienne suggest that one reason Americans don't read as much as we'd hope is that reading is a solitary activity, seen as frivolous and slightly suspect.

I've never sensed disdain for my own reading in public, and I think there are definitely places where it's widely understood: on public transit, for example, or in coffeehouses. Waiting rooms seem to be precisely one of those places, and I'd get downright huffy if someone tried to interrupt me there, as they did to one of the commenters.

I will freely admit that I've never tried to read in a bar (too dark!). Plus, I openly mocked a fellow who showed up to a bowling alley with a copy of Ulysses, of all things. As The Librarienne points out, reading is a solitary pleasure, and so voluntarily coming to a group social event with a book is just plain rude. (It did not help matters when he tried to use Joyce as a pick-up line.)

But I think the point about reading at work, as opposed to web surfing, is very well put. In the novel of corporate life Then We Came to the End, there's a wonderful passage describing how a quiet company rebel photocopies entire novels so he can read them at his desk, passing them off as memos. Reading seems to somehow more flagrantly flaunt one's duty than playing solitaire or chatting with co-workers.

Even though as librarians, we should value reading more, I've internalized this myself at my own library. On the recommendation of Robin Brown, I just borrowed a copy of Reading and the Reference Librarian. The central argument of the book is that reading widely makes us better at what we do - and I still feel guilty for reading it at work!

But I actually think there's good reason for this. What's different about reading books, what we value about books, is a depth of absorption, immersion in an argument or imagined world. That absorption can cause us to fail to notice patrons who need our attention, or we might be slow to snap out of it and refocus on work.*

But this isn't some hatred of reading, or a desire to stamp out "frivolous" reading. Instead, it's actually a mark of respect for reading and the real power books have over our imaginations.

So what, as The Librarianne asks, is to be done? At work, if the reading really is work related, I think we can try to carve out blocks of time and clearly label the activity - "This afternoon I'm reviewing books for our collection"; "Tomorrow I'm reading for the literature review for my next article on outreach."

For the public in general, I also think that the Dillingham editorial is absolutely right that one of the big problems is noise. If you want to read in a coffeeshop, you can ask them to turn down the music - or just take your business to a quieter place. Ask the receptionist in a doctor's office or the laundromat manager to turn off the television if no one's watching. (You don't have to tell them you're a librarian as you do all this shushing.)

Books captivate us. Some people do have first dibs on our attention (employers), but the general public doesn't. If they try to claim it, you could always start reading out loud. ;)

* (To be fair, this applies to other media as well - a boss who ignores Minesweeper will probably notice World of Warcraft.)
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Libri & Libertas: Books & Freedom in a Web 2.0 World by Laura H. Wimberley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - Share Alike 3.0 United States License.