balance e-learning to make it worth a damn

May 15, 2007

I’ll say it again- although I’m not the sort to identify with management gurus, I keep finding the Brazen Careerist insanely pertinent! And it seems like I’m not the only one- after Jane and I talked about Penelope Trunk’s dues-paying post, she sparked a sizable blog discussion about it.

So, today, BC in joint venture with millenial-geared Employee Evolution, has Ryan Healy saying, “Throw away e-learning”. Because it’s cheap in the worst way, impersonal, and generally insulting. Because it doesn’t do what hands-on, applicable learning, guidance, and mentorship does. Because it’s over-used and abused. Does this sound like libraries and archives? Yes and no.

I’d be hard pressed to find an entry-level librarian these days who hadn’t experienced at least some e-training. Graduate programs in LIS almost universally use online classes, some do so exclusively. On the job, I’ve seen online classes, webcasts and other permutations of teaching-facilitated-by-the -internet ranging from nuts and bolts tech training to management and patron service.

Both in grad school and on the job, I’ve sat through totally useless programs, and had my perspective changed by really effective ones. The distance programs at UW and UIUC seem to be among the best in the field, regardless of their delivery, and have solved a long-standing need in underserved regions. And word up to Five Weeks to a Social Library.

But my own frustration is so very similar to Healy’s. As a new librarian served with some heavy-lifting tech related tasks and working in an environment with not a lot of built-in support, I knew what I wanted to do, had a vague idea of what I needed to learn, and absolutely no clue as to how I could learn it, much less implement it. E-learning was posed as a panacea for the basic tenets. But I also needed context, guidance, and mentorship in my job.

So here’s what I’m saying to library and archives leaders: dose new professionals’ e-learning with check-ins, goal setting, mentorship and community support. Make peer mentorship an important, evaluated part of our jobs. If there aren’t possible mentors where I work, find me one in the community and pay them for it, if necessary. If I want to learn more about something related to my job duties, help me find training, but also help me figure out how to use and implement whatever it is that I’m learning, so that it’s valuable to our organization. And most important, don’t make me sit through anything you wouldn’t sit through yourself.


Ask a Male Librarian

March 23, 2007


In libraries and archives, males are a persistent minority. Their lack of female socialized subservience gets them disproportionally promoted, and their quirky personalities are often the result of both entitlement and high rates of Asperger’s. Instead of giggling, we decided to consult one and get his take. We turned to real-deal male law librarian Brown Recluse Esq. , of the NBA blog Freedarko, who asked “This counts as professional development, right?”

My good friend and fellow librarian has a comb-over. Should I tell him it doesn’t look good, or would this make our time on the reference desk awkward?


Yes, telling him it doesn’t look good would lead to awkwardness. Look, no one wants to be told something they’re doing isn’t working. When a co-worker told me she didn’t like my eyeglass frames, I threw them in the trash that very night and haven’t worn glasses since. Sure, it makes things like driving more of a challenge, but no accidents so far (knock on wood)! But, seriously, the male ego is very fragile, especially in areas of perceived physical decline (like going bald). A more sensitive approach would be to tell him that you think he would look really good with closely cropped hair or whatever hair style you think would suit him better than the comb-over. Then, if he follows your advice, be sure to tell him how good his hair looks. Girls do stuff like this for their friends all the time, don’t they?

At my library, I am serving on a committee with two unattractive heterosexuals. They flirt constantly, which makes my stomach turn. How do I get them to cut it out?


Mimi, that’s quite a conundrum. What you probably want to say is “get a room already,” but that’s not really very professional or polite. Instead, your strategy should be to divide and conquer. Or, just divide, I guess. Pull one of them aside and engage her in conversation individually and separately from the other. Try to find out something about each of them, so you’ll have something to talk about. If the woman likes to knit (and don’t all female librarians knit?), ask her what she’s working on or where she buys her yarn, anything. Just keep them apart. It sucks to have to talk to an ugly person, but it’s better than the nerd mating rituals you’ve had to endure thus far.

UPDATE: Our library dude changed his mind about the second question, so we updated the answer, obvs.

Do you have a question that only a male librarian can answer? Are you a male librarian, eager to share yourself with the world? Write us at

Required reading for new library school grads

March 22, 2007

If you have recently graduated with your MLS and are in the process of seeking employment, especially in an academic library, I implore you to read this fantastic article by Nancy Cunningham. The article, In Search of an Emotionally Healthy Library, could potentially save you a lot of heartache and stress. If only I had had this article when I was interviewing for my current position. There are tons of great tips in here on how to discern whether or not this library is seriously toxic or a place where collegiality is the rule and the staff doesn’t feel like slitting their wrists every day. My own personal job search hint: if the library to which you’ve applied has a male director AND assistant director and the majority of the library staff is female, this should make you scratch your temple. If they also insist on being referred to as “Dr.” while everyone else on staff, even those with Ph.Ds are called by their first names, RUN as fast as your little legs can carry you

geeks and cheerleaders

March 15, 2007

Reconceptualizing librarianship, reinventing the profession, blah blah blah. I think a lot of folks are rightly interested in changing the work model for librarians. But from my viewpoint, when we do this, we too often whitewash or downplay the fact that we do spend much of our days doing service and administrative oriented things like removing staples, being nice and helpful, and cleaning up vomit, and for generally low salaries. So, despite the fact that our professional discourse is tech-wise, we’re not quote-unquote geeks, we don’t work like them, and we don’t get paid like them. So, seriously, read the insanely widespread “8 Things Intelligent People, Geeks, and Nerds Need to Work Happily” post from Nomadishere with a good sized grain of salt. While flexibility and lifestyle considerations are the key tenets of this thing, they’re presented as they apply to well-paid young white guys with tattoos, not to working mothers or anyone else who may not fit into office norms for reasons other than their dislike of sports.

There’s also a growing number of media studies of women in service jobs, namely, the recent fascination with cheerleaders-turned-drug reps. We can and should read ourselves into these types of stories, even if there are rarely cheerleaders-turned-librarians. The Times feature brings up many points, such as the prevalence of sexual harassment in the field. The Brazen Careerist picked up on this story, with her own take on gender in sales and service jobs. I find her frank take on sexual harassment informative, if a little horrifying. I’m willing to admit that I’m fascinated by Penelope Trunk and her brand of career advice, and her closing bit to the cheerleader article is something that ambitious librarians should keep in mind, despite its emphasis on attractiveness.“Outgoing, good-looking women can have great careers in sales — or anywhere else they want to go. So go into the workforce with talent and ambition and create the life you want. Really.”