Day in the life of an IT librarian

[One of my goals for 2012 is to update here on average weekly. We’ll see how that goes, but I think I’ve finally sorted out some of my practical issues to make it easier.]

First: I am all confirmed (payment and all) for the Library Technology Conference in St. Paul, MN March 14th-15th. (I am combining a week’s trip to see people in Minnesota with this conference – which is an awesome fit for my new job – plus a chance to see various Minnesota friends, and the chance to be at something I helped found the following weekend.)

Registration’s closed (they hit their cap: part of why I liked it when I went in 2009 was that I do much better in a conference of 500 people than one of thousands.) But if you’re going to be there, I’d love to meet both people I know and people I don’t know yet.

On to the meat of the post: I thought it might amuse people to have a day in the life. Or rather, two.

Continue reading Day in the life of an IT librarian

Near and Far

I’ve spent a very cheerful weekend being very happy where I am. Which makes it a good time to talk about why I love it here.

I took two days off work this week, partly because there were online things I wanted to be around for that I knew would run late into the night. And because it gave me time to do some other things around home that I’d wanted. (Lots of thinking about what I want to do with music and writing projects this coming year, and some cooking, among other things.)

But it’s also been good for another reason. When I was thinking about taking this job, one of the things I thought about was the question of “Do I really want to live in rural Maine?” The answer, five months later, is a resounding “Yes!”

Now, mind, access to a reasonable ‘Net connection helps here. I’m not sure I’d have been quite as confident about it ten years ago, or even five. But right now? I spent a lot of the night of the 21st chatting with a dear friend currently doing research in Japan, and have been chatting on and off all weekend with other friends.

It’s not quite the same as hanging out in their living rooms, but it’s still pretty awesome. And next weekend, I’ll drive down to Boston, and see my mother and various friends. I don’t feel isolated at all, and in fact, my social life is a lot more to my taste in some ways than it was in Minneapolis. (I get lots of downtime during the week, with excursions when I want rather than feeling like there’s several things I’d really like to be at most nights, and then guilty that I’m not at any of them.)

I love the part where everything here is nearby, and easy. My commute to work is under 5 minutes, and if I walk, it’s 10. I ran two different errands over lunch on Wednesday, because things are just that close together. I can walk down to one of the grocery stores, and did on Saturday. And while I’m still figuring out how I want to pick up more local interests and activities, I’m really happy in a fundamentally contented sort of way.

It’s a very good fit for how I want to live my life. And I can’t begin to talk about the variety and range of locally produced foods, given the climate. (And when I want things that aren’t handy here – there’s a pleasant drive through stunningly gorgeous countryside to get to it. Or Amazon Prime, which is surprisingly handy for household needs that I can’t do easily locally.)

But a lot of people dismiss rural areas. Or flyover country, including Minnesota. Which always makes me blink. (Did you know that the Twin Cities has more theatre seats per capita than anywhere else in the US besides New York City? Yeah. Most people don’t.)

My mother and sister were talking on Facebook about a recent Atlantic article about Iowa City, a place they both have a very strong attachment to: my father taught at the University of Iowa for 10 years at the beginning of his career, and my brother and sister were born there. [Interesting responses here, here, and here, by the way, especially the last one.]

And reading it, I can see why they’re irked. Particularly the bits about homogeneity.

I’ve actually been impressed and amazed by the range of people I get to interact with here. No, there’s not as much ethnic diversity as other places I’ve lived – but there’s a huge range of stories and interests and backgrounds. My campus has a big commitment to being a resource for the larger community, not just the university, and every time I sit down to help someone for more than a minute or two, there’s another story, another chance to learn something. (And definitely a chance to make someone’s life better: I love that part.)

There’s no doubt that there are hard things about living in rural America, in all sorts of ways. But I also see, all around me (and on trips to Iowa, and to rural Minnesota, and all sorts of other places) that there’s a great deal of good and complexity and depth that gets overlooked all too often. This world isn’t simple – and that’s as true here as in a large city. And here, in some ways, it’s easier to see.

And that’s something that’s rather core to why I love my job: digging in below the surface, figuring out why things connect the ways they do, how to follow the thread of information and inspiration from one place to another.

What my work-life looks like

No, really, I’m going to work on blogging more regularly. (And if you have suggestions for things you’d like to see me talk about, leave a comment!)

I just hit that dip *after* you’re hectically busy where all you really want to do is do simple things (in my case: read a lot, knit a fair bit while watching non-demanding entertainment, read some more, mess around on the computer. Repeat. For, apparently, about a month.) But my creative brain came back with a¬†vengeance¬†in the last 10 days or so.

But I want to start talking some more about various long-term projects and interests, and before I do that, it makes sense to talk about the shape of my day and my week.

Continue reading What my work-life looks like

Ebook practicalities

I spent the day at the Maine Tri-Regional conference on ebooks, about which I expect to have a lot more to say in the not too distant future. This, however, is not that post. (Though I will say briefly that getting to hear Jessamyn West in person was just as awesome as I thought it would be, and I also really liked Jason Griffey‘s thoughts and comments about emerging technology and technology and libraries: I went to two presentations by each of them, and have a lot to mull over.)

Anyway, this is about ebooks, but a very practical problem.

See, I read a lot of series books – both science fiction/fantasy and mysteries. And when I have just finished reading a book, and I am lying in bed, and don’t want to go to sleep yet, i do not want to have to spend time thinking about which book comes next.

When I read print books, I shelve them in series order (or my preference for series order, if there are multiple options), and grab the next one if I think I might finish my current book and want more that night.

But with ebooks, I kept hitting the problem of not being able to make the reader software I was using show me the books in order, even if the metadata in the software I use to store and manage the titles was correct.

This seems very stupid to me. And things that seem that kind of stupid to me eventually motivate me to figure out a solution.

Let me pause here to specify what I’m using:

I manage titles using Calibre on a MacBook (running Lion, though it doesn’t matter particularly in this case.) I generally save them in ePub, unless I think I might want to read them on the computer as well, in which case, I am likely to save a PDF as well.

I read them – mostly – on my iPhone, using Stanza. And part of why I’m working on this now is that a shiny iPad is my birthday present. (I expect, for various reasons that should be a different post, to mostly not use it for ereading, though.)

I also have iBooks installed on both potential readers, though I prefer Stanza because I really like reading white text on black background when I’m reading before going to sleep. (I also use the Kindle app for some books, and yes, it’s a pain to have my potential reading multiple places. But I am not immune to the lure of “I really want to read that book now rather than figure out other download options.”)

The solution:

In the end, I came up with two solutions: both of which work on Stanza (though one is a really odd solution). I’m still unsatisfied with how they work in iBooks (right now, some authors/series are behaving, and some aren’t. More investigation is obviously called for)

Continue reading Ebook practicalities

Lots of New

So, I’m just about to finish my first month at my new job, which means it’s time for a bit of an update. First, I still adore it. My time has been full of a lot of the more mechanical bits of the job (imaging computers to get them ready for the school year), but it’s a great way to learn a lot very quickly, so I don’t mind a bit.

But, as I’ve been describing to people, there’s a whole lot of New in my life. New place to live, new-to-me car (very different in driving feel from my previous one), all the bits about figuring out grocery shopping and where to get other things that make life work better. And of course, lots of New in the job. So I thought it might be nice to write about some of the changes.

Continue reading Lots of New

Links of interest: August 20th, 2011

Welcome to the promised “links of doom” post – there’s 39 links in here. I am doing this before I acquire more. (I am also working on a set of job hunting resource links, and some other stuff.)

In other news, I had a lovely short hike in some nearby trails this morning. Maine remains gorgeous.

sunlight falling through pine trees in a forest in Maine, landing on a birch tree

(here, have a photo I took on my walk: this is a maintained set of trails about a mile from my home.)

Continue reading Links of interest: August 20th, 2011

Hi, nice people!

Thanks to a couple of lovely people retweeting the index post for my job hunting retrospective, I have one of those awesome lines going skyward in my blog stats. (The actual numbers aren’t huge, but it’s still fun to see.)

Thanks for stopping by!

If you’d like to hang out, here’s some of my plans for the near future around here:

1) No later than this weekend, I will do the massive links of doom post that I’ve been saving links for since the beginning of July. And then do much better at posting them at least twice a month.

2) Resuming more regular blogging, by which I mean ‘at least once a week’ and ideally mean ‘more like twice a week’. We’ve just sorted out where I’m fitting into the blogging lineup at work, so I now have an idea of how different topics might split out.

3) I intend to continue blogging about technology (and especially how we can use it to make our lives richer, fuller, and more joyful), libraries, books, reading, and all sorts of other related topics. But if you’ve got things you think you’d like to see me discuss, I’m certainly glad to consider it.

Things I have learned recently:

  • My new job is in a library that has *seven* staircases, most of which don’t go to all floors, in an arrangement that my boss refers to as “Hogwartsian”. I’ve more or less figured them out now. Maybe. Anyway, I’ve decided I like the yellow one best.
  • Dreamweaver, as a program, has not changed as much from way back when I used to use it as I thought it might have. (Which is good: I got to make a bunch of edits on the library webpage today, and didn’t break anything.)
  • Imaging and ghosting computers is slightly less tedious when one has an iPhone and Kindle app handy. (There is a lot of rebooting involved in the process, which means you get these 2-3 minute gaps periodically in which you can’t actually do much.)
  • Documenting things while they’re still new in my head remains the most sensible way to do things.

Job hunting retrospective : index

One of the things I knew I wanted to do once I was hired for the awesome new job was to write up my thoughts and (general) experiences about the current state of library job hunting.

That grew.

In the links below, I focus on aspects of job hunting that are specific to libraries. I should note clearly that I was looking at college/university libraries, independent school libraries, and public libraries, but not public schools (I don’t hold a teaching license) or special libraries (corporate, medical, etc.)


This is mostly about my experience, based on a lot of reading (both within the field and outside it), my experiences, and my conversations with various colleagues, lists, and other resources.

In fact, this isn’t so much ‘advice’ as ‘here’s some stuff to be aware of, so you can make better informed decisions about what you want to do.’ Doing this stuff doesn’t guarantee you’ll find a job (it’s a really tough market). I do hope, however, it’ll help you figure out some things that might make your own search easier, give you more questions to research, or otherwise get you further along your way.

Library job quirks: bits and pieces

This final section of my library job hunting quirks posts wraps up a few shorter bits and pieces, namely:

  • Timelines (and why library searches often take forever.)
  • Interview trips and who pays.
  • Asking questions.
  • (And you can always go back to the index)

Continue reading Library job quirks: bits and pieces

Library job quirks: clothing


Standard job hunting advice says “Wear a suit. Unless you’re a programmer/coder.”

That really ought to say “And libraries are complicated, too.” In every single job but one that I actually interviewed on site for, a suit would have been far too formal, in ways that would almost certainly have indicated that I wasn’t picking up on important cultural cues.

It is different if you’re looking at upper library management of a large library, a school that has a dress code, or something like that – but most of the time, suits are too much. (The one exception was a for-profit college, and they were explicit about students dressing for classes as they would in a formal business environment setting.)

(as always with this series, you can also get to the index.)

Continue reading Library job quirks: clothing

Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Research Librarian at the Perkins School for the Blind

More about my job and a day in the life

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