An MC to a degree that you can’t get in college

Or, a librarian? To a degree you can’t get in grad school?

[Have I already mentioned that when I looked at my iTunes, I found that I own 89 tracks from the Beastie Boys? Some of them are dups, but still!]

So, on AUTOCAT (their screaming, not mine), which is a library listserv for catalogers of all stripes, people have been discussing library grad school. Not individual schools or programs, but grad school and MLISing in general. Whether school is worth it/worthless/some other thing.

I hadn’t realized that a lot of the debate was about whether the schools are teaching anything library at all and whether anyone should be getting these degrees in the first place.

I don’t want to argue with anyone else’s experience. All I know is what I’ve got. To wit:

I’ve gotten as far as I can in this field without a degree. If I want to stay in the profession, I will need to get some kind of degree, sooner or later. In terms of timing, right now makes sense. I have the kind of energy necessary for school, and my fiancée and I don’t have children yet. My life is still relatively simple. & cetera.

The bigger point to me, though, is that I actually want to learn more. I want to get some theory behind what I already know. I want to be able to jump in there and innovate some technology and practices. I want to be able to do more. It’s really important to me to learn. And I don’t feel that attached to whether it is “traditional” library stuff, though I want to make sure my background in that is totally solid. (It helps that I already have a background in the traditional; it’s like being classically trained, even if “all” you want to do is MC. *sigh*)

I have a lot (LOT) of cataloging experience, and at the end of my tenure at my last library job, I was doing work that my supervisor had been doing when I started– cataloging the majority of what came into the library and maintaining the integrity of the existing collection. Which is to say I was doing a librarian job without the degree.

Q: If I could advance in my career without the degree, would I still want to get the degree?

A: I have an MFA in Creative Writing. You totally don’t need that degree to write a book or to get a book published or to be a good writer or even a great writer. I wrote before I got the degree, and the program gave me the chance to write, the focus on my writing, and the opportunity for feedback and community and contacts, etc. But the real point to me was to learn what exactly I was doing.

I was writing by intuition and by experience, which are probably the most important things for me to practice as a writer. But, in order to write with intention, it was important for me to learn the frame behind the intuition. What appeals to me in stories that I like to read? What do I like about my own writing? What is missing in it? Even, what procedures and tricks can I use to draw out the kind of writing I want to do?

My cataloging is based on training and experience and intuition (and that elusive thing people usually associate only with art– talent), but I think I could be a better cataloger if I had some more theory.


Dear Pandora,

Firstly, just to jump right into it, I love your name! (Wait- Pandora had a jar?!) I totally feel that. Endless streaming (as long as I occasionally poke the radio, so you know I am in the room) of things I wouldn’t have guessed, a lot of things I wouldn’t have grouped together, and a bunch of music I’m like, yeah, I love that song too!

I made my first station to find more stuff like Sufjan Stevens, which apparently involves disco influences, mild rhythmic syncopation (you know it!), minor key tonality (more please!!!), and vocal harmonies (FOR REALS!!!) I ended up learning: a) what I like in music and b) what else I might want to listen to.

Here are some bands/songs I’ve found/rediscovered and what led me there:

  • “Be My Escape” by Relient  k (Fall Out Boy radio)
  • Cartel (Fall Out Boy radio)
  • Boys Like Girls (Fall Out Boy radio)
  • Kanye West (Missy Elliott radio)
  • Juvenile (Missy Elliott radio)
  • “Down with the Sickness” by Disturbed (Linkin Park radio)
  • “Dance Hall Girls” by the Duhks (“The Christians and the Pagans” radio)
  • “Hold Onto It” by Brooke Miller (“The Christians and the Pagans” radio)

And the rest!!!

I am in love with The Music Genome Project! I feel so inspired by your example! To quote:

On January 6, 2000 a group of musicians and music-loving technologists came together with the idea of creating the most comprehensive analysis of music ever. Together we set out to capture the essence of music at the most fundamental level. We ended up assembling literally hundreds of musical attributes or “genes” into a very large Music Genome. Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song – everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony. It’s not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records – it’s about what each individual song sounds like.

Exactly! This is so interesting to me, because for most of my musical life, my tastes were always influenced by my self-identification. I.e., I was into hip-hop when I was twelve, so that is exclusiveishly what I listened to. Then, when I learned about “Alternative” music/culture, I was like, THIS IS COOL AND I WANT TO BE COOL. (Also, the music sounded good to me, natch, but it was about more than the aesthetics of it.) Now, if I were going to claim some kind of musical identity, it would be about being eclectic. Like, as I am loading my computer and analyzing my musical holdings/mix tapes and CDs, I am all, I LIKE EVERYTHING! Which is pretty much true, but also not very informative.

*catches breath* Oh, so what I was going to say is that, Pandora, you are helping me to get it! There are certain things I like in music that keep on coming up. I like vamping, key and tempo and time signature changes, minor keys, harmony, anthemicalness (oh, I can’t remember the word), gravelly-voiced male singers, and unintelligible lyrics (HA!), among other things. This is something I can work with! It goes beyond what I would think of as genre and into something more interesting: what are my tastes, outside of cultural identifications?

I envision a world where traditional genres are irrelevant. Music could just be categorized by its elements. People could sample at will! I think of it as somewhat utopian, but I also want to say that, living in Oakland (California), I am already seeing this happen. I see kids identifying with local culture (yay!) as opposed to an image of what they should like– and the local culture here is totally eclectic and unclassifiable.

And, while I still listen to and cherish local radio, I adore you too, Pandora. Maybe it is because you are a smart algorithm built on Python, maybe it is because I know you have no agenda whatsoever, or maybe it is because you blew my mind when you suggested Dolly Parton on my Dar Williams station. You are on my iPhone and in my heart.

Love love love….

I think it’s time to slow things down…

So, at the convention over the weekend, I missed an awesome thing called a “re-entry plan,” which is basically a week-long taper from an event.

I’ve experienced this with work- and non-work-related events: a kind of let-down after meeting a ton of cool people with the same interests and different ideas, hanging out into the wee hours (srsly, I am too old for this), and learning about a month’s worth of stuff in a couple of days.

I am going to share the highlights of my current re-entry plan from last weekend:

  1. a lot of personal growth work: calling support people; meeting with people for fellowship; going to meetings; etc.
  2. working shorter hours, because, honestly, I need to assimilate what I learned; this also involved prioritizing, which is great practice for me– what am I cutting out if I work five hours instead of seven? Is that stuff I really need to do?
  3. drumming, yoga, dancing, Rock Band (II!), swimming, farmer’s market, going outside, etc.– to get into my physical body
  4. relatedly, really paying attention to my physical needs for water, naps, food, etc.– staying up late and working longer hours during a conference makes me really susceptible to illness and allergies, so I redouble my self-care efforts
  5. cutting back on the social media, particularly late at night– I don’t know why this makes me tired, but it does, and I respect that
  6. less less less — when in doubt, I reschedule instead of trying to add in “one more thing”

Slow and low....

Slow and low....

There’s other stuff, too, just doing things that bring me joy, whatever they are. (Like right now, “Root Down” by Beastie Boys.) And recognizing that at some point soon I’m going to be back up to speed.

Cataloging Projects for Fun and Service

I am a member of several non-library organizations. (Shocking, I know, that I have a life outside of work!) And I do service in a number of those orgs. This past weekend, I went to a convention for one of them, and I ended up being the literature liaison between the convention and my home meeting. Which meant, basically, that I picked out literature, picked it up, and got the CDs of the speakers and workshops. (I know I’m digressing an awful lot here, but I was excited that there was a podcast from the weekend, and a friend suggested that we let people download the content instead of having to buy physical CDs! Progress!)

On Monday night, I brought the CDs to our meeting, but there was no one there to take them, so I took them home with me. We don’t sell the CDs, but we do loan them out to meeting attendees, and we have to inventory them before we can let people take them. And I got excited, because this means I might be able to inventory them myself! Which would be fun. I already ripped them to my computer, and it was fun to create a standard naming convention for them. Who knows what I could come up with for the inventory sheet? And could I retroactively inventory the CDs we own?

This is probably a moot point because the lit person will undoubtedly be back next week. But it does point to the quite obvious conclusion that even if I never get a job as a cataloger again, everything is in danger of being cataloged by me. (Except for living beings. I draw a line.)

Here are some other ideas for projects, which may or may not be of service to others or self:

  • collections, i.e., the My Little Ponies on my shelf, marbles, record albums (natch), etc.
  • They still exist, people!

    They still exist, people!

  • gardens — what and where — which would also, presumably, involve a map (also fun!) Possibility for innovative, new cataloging techniques!
  • photographs and slides — there is a desperate need for this, in my experience, particularly when scanning old photos. My Da got a slide scanner for Christmas and now faces the task of labeling a mess of documentation. (This one might also call for emotional help, in addition to cataloging.)
  • a random grab-bag of items — for this I am picturing when you are cleaning the house and you’ve put nearly everything away, but then you’ve got a bunch of stuff that you don’t know what to do with. Catalog them and then try to figure out where you’d classify them, i.e., what other items are they most like, where would you most likely look for them. (I have done a lot of organizing work for individuals, and I always have a basket of this stuff. I like to ask the person where they look when they are trying to find the thing and then put it there. If they are like, I didn’t know I had that, I put it in a place that seems sensical. Or I make them toss it! I am a task-master!)

Of course, if you belong to any kind of organization or club or whathaveyou (do you always picture, like, a treehouse when you hear “club?” We meet in a treehouse, but I assume not everyone does), you can always offer to create a database for archives or literature. It seriously makes the business of meetings a lot smoother.

Wot’s All This Then??

Where have I been all week?

So, I have been thinking for the last couple of months about doing some kind of Project. Nothing really spoke to me. Until last week, when I was brainstorming for a somewhat unrelated reason, and I hit upon It!


It’s a database of mix tapes/CDs/playlists, with cross-references, information about artists, albums, songs, DJs, etc. I commented on my own mix (I’m DJ Go! and some of my songs. I want to enhance all of the content, but first I just wanted to get it out there!

If you’ve got a mix you want me to add, please let me know. What I’ll need from you is: a playlist with artists, the year the mix was made, and who made it. I would love it if you also gave me: the name of the album you got it from, commentary on any element, and a mini-bio.

(I Missed!) Ada Lovelace Day

This is gorgeous, and it also makes me sad.

Sad because I didn’t hear of Ada Lovelace until I was in late high school, when we were reading Arcadia (scroll down). And then I heard about her a lot from my awesome tech-y friends in college, because that was the kind of college I went to (which is to say a women’s college.)

People tend to focus on the womanness of Ada Lovelace or her lineage (only non-bastard child of scary poet, Lord Byron!), which are all fine and good. (Actually, I am inclined to think that the womanness is more interesting/relevant than the father issue. Esp. since Babbage got all credit in the invention of computing, whereas, Lovelace mostly fell by the wayside as the first programmer.)

(God, this is totally off-topic, but Babbage was delightfully insane:

Babbage once contacted the poet Alfred Tennyson in response to his poem “The Vision of Sin”. Babbage wrote, “In your otherwise beautiful poem, one verse reads,

Every moment dies a man,
Every moment one is born.

… If this were true, the population of the world would be at a standstill. In truth, the rate of birth is slightly in excess of that of death. I would suggest [that the next version of your poem should read]:

Every moment dies a man,
Every moment 1 1/16 is born.

Strictly speaking, the actual figure is so long I cannot get it into a line, but I believe the figure 1 1/16 will be sufficiently accurate for poetry.

(Swade, Doron (2000). The Difference Engine. New York: Viking. p. 77, via Wikipedia)

(Wait, I am still not over that. Genius!)

Okay, though, see how Babbage steals Lovelace’s limelight? I’m going to guess that that is, in part, because the lives of women in the nineteenth century were lived much more in the private sphere than those of men.

But, I don’t think it is fair to think of her as only an inspiration to geeky women. I love the punch cards. I love the thought of people punching the cards by hand. But I most especially love the mind that got it first. And the first person who ever did it. “Enough theory! Time for some action!” /picks up needles/

Ada got it

Ada got it

(Of course, I know the military gave her props, naming their first standard programming language after her. Now that I think about it, the sad part might be that non-techies might not know why she is significant at all. Perhaps that is why I had no idea who she was, when I was avoiding computers as a teenager.)


I haven’t downloaded Koha yet, as my fiancĂ©e and I have traded paiuters for the afternoon. (I am not sure I understand why, but she is doing her job on mine, and I am importing CDs onto hers.)

Here is an example of Koha in action (Athens County Public Library).

What is that action you ask? Koha is “a full-featured open-source ILS.* Developed initially in New Zealand by Katipo Communications Ltd and first deployed in January of 2000 for Horowhenua Library Trust, it is currently maintained by a team of software providers and library technology staff from around the globe.” (per their website)

Meaning: anyone can use it; anyone can contribute to it; and it is free.

I love open-source software, as I think that it employs Starfish organizing to its fullest. Basically, it is user-driven and collaborative rather than top-down and authority-powered. And, with the input of many, it is more likely to be intuitive.

Further, because it is free, it is a great resource for smaller libraries.

I want to play with it, and I am not sure yet what I want to do. I am envisioning some kind of project, but the only thing that comes to mind is an insane catalog of my books, CDs, etc. But there must be something more Grand I could do with this!

*An ILS is like Innovative Interfaces or SirsiDynix, an Integrated Library System, which basically means that the cataloging is connected to the circulation and the billing is connected to the patron load &c. It’s a platform that houses and connects all the different modules a library needs.

Why I Was Planning to Kill My Last Job

Not like, oh, I hate this damn thing– let’s blow it up! More like, I have a Vision of the Future! And it involves *gasp* outsourcing.

I know it is controversial. I love to catalog, and I am going to keep doing it no matter what. (YOU CANNOT STOP ME!) But let me tell you about the workflow at my last job:

Divide books up into ones w/CIP data and ones without

Give ones w/CIP to student worker, who uses OCLC Connexion to
–create a call number using Cutter shortcut (i.e., ShortCutter (TM! I just made that up!))
–add 949 fields for interactive importing to Innovative
Student writes OCLC record number on workslip, gives books to cataloger

Give books (and other media) w/o CIP to cataloger, who
–does the same as student worker, sometimes more complicatedly

Cataloger then takes all those books and
–revises call number so it is unique within the collection (and checks to make sure it fits there/is accurate/is the best choice of call number)
–performs authority control on all subject and authority headings
–downloads authority records, as needed; replaces outdated authority records in existing database, as indicated
–checks for any other anomalies
–exports records from Connexion into III, individually
–writes call number in book and on workslip

My vision for the job:

Outsource the initial cataloging (or pre-cataloging or whatever) OR
Automate the initial cataloging

Cataloger checks as in the final group procedures

The cataloging focus would then be on quality control. In fact, I foresee a future when the authority control could be done automatedly, with quality checks, natch.

And the job itself would shift to management of the entire Cataloging/Processing Department, rather than strictly focusing on the cataloging part. Of course, there would be a need for original cataloging from time to time. (By my estimation, with just DVDs, VHS, and books, the library where I worked required the OC (“Don’t call it that.”) on about 80-90 titles a year. My supervisor did original cataloging on far more CDs, I think.) So, Head of Cataloging and Processing would need to be a cataloger. (Like me!)

About the controversy:

1) Job loss: I get that. It is real, and I don’t want to dismiss it. But I truly think that there will be more library professional and paraprofessional jobs in the long run. You know how ppl were all freaked out about automation taking jobs away from humans? Well, it turns out that the machines cannot (YET!) maintain themselves. And, as I’ve said before, there’s always going to be a need for information professionals who can translate the info for hu-mons and help people learn to evaluate sources, etc. More jobs, not fewer!

2) Lack of quality of outsourced cataloging: I have heard (i.e., read on listservs) the lament that Library of Congress is cutting corners and it is being reflected in the quality of their records. The (vast) majority of records we used at my library (and this is pretty standard) were copy-cataloged from Library of Congress records. And it’s true– there are some egregious mistakes in the records. Not all of them or even most, but, man, when they are wrong, they can be Very Wrong. (I wish that I had written down some amusing examples! How fun would that be!) Which is why I advocate for a cataloger to check every single record.

I really think that hybrid is the way to go, here. You need somebody to supervise the department, take care of the technical aspects, and approve the records, but I think that it makes more sense, economically and in terms of using people’s time and energy to its best.

Oh, man, I just realized what a technical, specific post this is. But everyone, cataloger, department head, library patron, or person with a heart can enjoy this (noisy noisy video):


I was working through the book, Very Quick Job Search (buy from indie booksellers, y’all!) by J. Michael Farr today, and I realized that I’ve got a problem:

When it comes to my job search, I have this enormous blind spot. (Originally wrote “bling spot.” Not sure what that would entail? Blinded by the light?) To wit, I am stoked about my career and the future and jobs and such, but when it comes to my job search, I get mopey and morose and BORED.

Wrapped up like a douche?!

Wrapped up like a douche?!

I was trying to write about accomplishments today, and everything turned into jargon. I didn’t dislike my last job, and I am quite proud of the things I did there, but it turns generic when I try to describe it:

Maintained database
Eliminated backlog of materials to be cataloged
Trained and supervised twelve staff
Created documentation and streamlined workflow for department

Like, seriously? I don’t know if that how much of that is just the language of job searching and how much of it just reflects my utter terror of the people I imagine to be “in charge”. I’m afraid to stand out and to be “different.” When, in fact, the things that make me different are going to be the things that land me the job.

And I keep thinking, Oh, I’m going to accomplish something soon that will be resume-worthy! There has to be something from my past that I can convert into an exciting, dynamic talking point!

So, here are some things off the top of my head that have excited me in the past (job-related or otherwise):

Learning to speak French when I got to college
Teaching myself how to run and becoming a freakin’ runner
Getting an MFA in Creative Writing
Earning two advanced degrees while working full-time
Volunteering in Maine because I felt moved to
Creating documentation for my job and the jobs of my employees out of thin air
Creating an entirely new job for myself and advocating for a promotion and raise

You see, here is where the energy is. It feels more authentic and more exciting to me. I notice that I feel most drawn to learning new things, creating new things, and taking risks. So, maybe that is where I want to focus, when I am putting together my resumes/cover letters/JIST cards: newness, risk-taking, learning, creating!

As for the jargon, I am wondering about how much I can loosen up without being too casual about the whole thing. Maybe Brazen Careerist has something to say on the matter? (I totally went over there thinking that I could probably dig around for something, but the very first blog post in the “Career Advice” section was this. Brava!

Library 2.0h noes!

Via my Facebook page:

“What kind of librarian are you?” with the result Librarian 2.0.
You were interviewed for the New York Times about the changing face of librarians, you’re in charge of your library’s Facebook page, and you hate working with old people. You enjoy showing patrons how to use the computer catalog and no longer make a bitch face when asked for help with self checkout. Patrons and coworkers see you as a breath of fresh air and someone who is full of good ideas, as long as you aren’t rolling your eyes at them. You are a next gen librarian, one who will define the future of blah blah blah. We get it. Remember, it’s still ok for libraries to have books in the building..

Oy. Before I complain about the term “2.0,” I just want to talk about the description of “me.” I was interviewed by no one, but thanks for the NYT shout-out. (If you are reading this, New York Times, call me!) My library had no Facebook page, no self-checkout and no bitch-face. I am an incredibly polite human being who wants books in libraries! In fact, I am pro-traditional-library (though I think that using new technology appropriately is important.) People need and love books, the physical objects. I am one of those people!

Now, I don’t want to belabor the point, but people people, not just nerds, have been using internets since, say, 1995. In 2002, System of a Down was using “software version 7.0” of… /trails off/ /looks it up/ Conversion? Eating seeds? Our city? At any rate, they were using software version 7.0. The version of Firefox I am using at this very moment is 3.0.10. Libraries, as we know them, have been around since the freakin’ 18th century, and the ancient-y civilizations had libraries.

How are we only on version 2.0?! I mean, it really gets me that we are only on the second release to begin with, but .0?! .0?!?!?!?!??!!!

If we’re going to be arbitrary about the whole thing, here’s what I’ve got:

Library 1.0: some guy collects scrolls and tablets in his home, in some kind of order
Library 1.1: other guys do the same thing
Library 0.0: Rome burns
Library 2.0: Rich 18th century nobles sponsor libraries
Library 2.1: Rich 18th century nobles sponsor university libraries
Library 3.0: Literate commerçants collect their Romans for easy access to Bawdy Entertainments
Library 4.0: Some other stuff probably happens
Library 5.0: 1876 — Dewey BLOWS EVERYONE’S MINDS!



Library 5.1-5.9.18: thence to now, revisions to Dewey + LCC, ad infinitum
Library 6.0: Computers take over
Library 6.1: What happened to all the card catalogs?
Library 6.2: Seriously, guys, is there any paper anywhere in this damn library that is not bound?
Library 6.3: Discs of various sorts with information people might use, usually shelved in reference section or housed in the back of books
Library 7.0: Internet BLOWS EVERYONE’S MINDS
Library 7.1: Search engines and online databases
Library 7.3: Whatever buzz-words people are using for the fact that a lot of young people can use computers

Library 7.3. There.

As a bonus, here are some other phrases besides “[insert noun here] 2.0” that will one day be used in historical fiction to gently mock those of us in the fin-de-20ème siècle and early 21st:

internet cyberspace (I actually found that phrase in a book! That was published! By a major press!)
[any word].com (when you aren’t just giving someone a web address; this one is courtesy Nicole)
pwn (sadly)

« Older entries