Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Brief History of Makerspaces in Libraries

In my day job, I recently worked on a book about makerspaces. A makerspace, as defined by Wikipedia, "is a community-operated workshop where people with common interests, often in computers, technology, science, digital art or electronic art, can meet, socialize and/or collaborate." Projects that have also been connected to makerspaces include crafts, such as jewelry making, knitting and crocheting, making terrariums, and more.

Testing a generator at the H.Y.P.E. Makerspace at the Detroit Public Library.
Photo via

Although makerspaces have been making much news as of late, they are not a new phenomena. Makerspaces have existed in some way, shape, or form for centuries. However, the public library has been integral to the makerspace movement from very early on. According to the book I worked on, one of the first makerspaces in the United States (if not the first makerspace in the U.S.) was in a public library. The book made reference to a February 2013 article in American Libraries magazine titled "Manufacturing Makerspaces." The article featured a timeline of "A History of Making" in libraries, which you can see below.

A History of Making

Gowanda, New York
The Gowanda Ladies Social Society formed to quilt, knit, sew, socialize, and talk about books. In 1877, it became the Ladies Library Association, receiving a state library charter in 1990 as the Gowanda Free Library.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Frances Jenkins Olcott, children's department head, helped to establish home libraries in working-class houses, where she organized crafts such as sewing or basketry for local kids.

Manitoba (Canada) Crafts Museum and Library
Created as a meeting place and resource connecting people to crafts, the Manitoba Crafts Museum and Library in Winnipeg is dedicated to preserving the province's cultural heritage and teaching students how to craft.

Nebraska Library Commission
Funded in FY1960 by the Library Services Act of 1956, the Nebraska Library Commission (then known as the Nebraska Public Library Commission) in Lincoln hosted a variety of special activities, including creative arts, that were organized by area groups.

The Tool Library
The Rebuilding Together Central Ohio Tool Library was created by Columbus as the tool-gathering library with a federal community development block grant. In March 2009, Rebuilding Together Central Ohio took over operation of the library.

Merrimack (New Hampshire) Public Library
The newly renovated and expanded Merrimack Public Library opened with a children's craft room.

Fayetteville (New York) Free Library Makerspace
The first 21st-century makerspace opened in Fayetteville Free Library. It was the first of its kind in a public library and includes a 3-D printer that works in a mobile capacity.

Since 2011, makerspaces have been incorporated at a steady pace in public libraries across the country, such as at the Westport Library in Connecticut (2012); the Detroit Public Library in Michigan (2012); the Piscataway Public Library in New Jersey (2013); the Chicago Public Library in Illinois (2013); and the Cleveland Public Library in Ohio (2014). As the maker movement continues to gather steam, it is certain that even more public libraries will open their doors to those eager to create with their hands.

In addition to offering "A History of Making" in libraries, the American Libraries article "Manufacturing Makerspaces" also highlights "Three Makerspace Models That Work," "Cool Stuff to Outfit Your Makerspace," and more. You can read the article at THIS LINK. For a list of resources on makerspaces in libraries, go HERE.

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Cautionary Tale

A poster designed and distributed exclusively by the Helford Gallery Ltd., for sale at this website.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Librarians Get Real About Salaries on Reddit

Last week, library workers took to Reddit to talk about something that's rarely discussed in public: salaries. The question "Librarians of Reddit, what is your income and how many years of experience do you have?" elicited more than 70 responses. Under the cloak of online anonymity, librarians and library workers in the United States and beyond got real about what they make.
Image via

The majority of those who responded to the question posted on Reddit work at academic libraries. The next sizable percentage work at public libraries. Others are employed in law libraries, corporate libraries, school libraries, or special libraries, such as the librarian/archivist who works at a fashion company. It seemed that most who participated in the online discussion are in the Midwest or live along the East Coast of the United States. There were a noticeable few who joined in from Canada, and at least one Australian added to the discussion.

Judging from the discussion thread, those who make the most are library directors (big surprise, huh?) and library managers. Those who work in the academic sphere are among the top earners, followed by those who work within a corporation. Respondents whose library job involves a digital component or an element of IT (information technology) rake in big bucks as well. Those at the lower end of the earning spectrum were part-time workers and library pages.

In the thread, many bemoaned their low pay, which seemed to be due to salary freezes or salary cuts. This reply, from bibliothecaire, was typical:

"I have an understanding supervisor as well. It sucks because I like my co-workers, my library, and the college. The pay is simply too low and there's little chance of a raise unless a faculty librarian position opens up. I've been here nearly 3 years."

Another factor that affects salaries is where the library job itself is located. A "recent grad from Canada" named MalarkeyTFC began by saying:

"I have been looking into jobs in the States, and the discrepancy in pay between different states is mind blowing to me. The farther away from major urban centres (or from major university towns and what not) you get, the salaries just seem to tank. I've seen jobs in St. Louis that for all intents and purposes were identical to jobs in Boston or New York, and they got paid 1/3rd of their counterparts. This is funny to me almost because in Canada, it's the opposite. The farther away from urban centres you go, the higher the salaries tend to be because no one wants to live in butt fuck nowhere during the middle of winter."

(This is something I did not know until now - that if I were to go to Canada for a library job, I would have to live far from where the action is in order to get higher pay. It's kind of a fascinating dynamic actually, considering it is the complete opposite here in the States.)

Replying to MalarkeyTFC, others pointed out that the cost of living is substantially higher in major urban centers in the United States. As a result, salaries tend to be higher in order to (ideally) cover the cost of living in an expensive urban center, such as New York or Chicago. However, in smaller towns, in the suburbs, and in the country, library workers' salaries tend to hover in the low-to-mid 30s. So geography, as well as the type of company and the library worker's position within that company, can make a difference in take-home pay. 

Another factor affecting pay is the years of experience on the job or in the field of librarianship. The years of experience among those who participated in the Reddit discussion ranged from those newly graduated from library school to those who've been employed in the field for decades. In fact, one respondent said they've worked "22 years total as a librarian," with 17 of those years spent at their current employer! Of course, that person is earning quite a bit, "making mid-90K."

Admittedly, I'm not entering librarianship for the money. But it is interesting to note what the reality is when it comes to personal income for those in the field. For further insight into what librarians and library workers earn, and the factors affecting this income, check out the Reddit discussion, "Librarians of Reddit, what is your income and how many years of experience do you have?", at THIS LINK.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

For Your Listening Pleasure

Dewey Decimal and the Librarians were an actual band of folk musicians formed in the early 1960s in St. Paul, Minnesota. The band released one album in 1965.

Front of their 1965 album.
Image via

Back of their 1965 album, featuring the track listing.
Image via Southern Folklife Collection on Facebook

According to Bob Stimson, banjo player in Dewey Decimal and the Librarians, the band is still together, playing class reunions at Macalester College in St. Paul. They're also available for performances if travel and other expenses are paid.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Books + Coffee + Tattoos

Newly opened Vice Coffee promises to be a three-in-one stop for inked caffeine fiends who love a good read. The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, establishment is a coffee house, a tattoo parlor, and a lending library - all rolled into one.

"I was hoping that copy of Rimbaud Complete would be here when I got in this morning, dammit."
Image via

Tattoos are mostly by appointment, coffee (and soups, salads and sandwiches, including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options) is served daily, and books can be had whenever Vice Coffee is open for business. Its hours of operation are Monday through Wednesday, 7 AM to 9 PM; Thursday through Friday, 7 AM to 10 PM; Saturday, 9 AM to 10 PM; and Sunday, 9 AM to 9 PM.

According to Vice Coffee's Facebook page, the lending library has 400 books...and counting. Looking at the photos, the lending library does contain some literature (for instance, John Irving), but many of the books appear to be about tattooing, which shouldn't be surprising considering the place of business. The books, which are a mix of new and used, are borrowed based on the honor system.
A corner of the lending library at Vice Coffee. It now has over 400 books.
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(If you're curious about exactly what books are available at Vice Coffee, take a look at THIS ONLINE CATALOG that Library Thing has for the lending library.)

At Vice Coffee, there are Android and iPhone charging stations and free Wi-Fi. There are also First Friday events, where there are beer and whiskey tastings, photo exhibits (with the photographers present), and much mingling and book browsing. The coffee house is located across the street from a live-music venue, Union Transfer, so in the evenings the crowd might be a little more rock and roll compared to the early-morning, grab-a-coffee-before-work customers.
A supporter of Vice Coffee reads with his daughter.
Image via

Vice Coffee is located at 1031 Spring Garden Street, between N. 10th and N. 11th Streets. If you're in Philadelphia, be sure to stop by. In the meantime, like it on Facebook and/or follow it on Twitter.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Stephin Merritt Writing a Book of Poetry

Stephin Merritt must share my love of Scrabble. The musician, who is best known for being the principal singer and songwriter in the indie pop band The Magnetic Fields, is writing a book of poetry that was inspired by the classic word game.
Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt, a multi-instrumentalist who can masterfully turn a phrase.
Image via

The forthcoming book, titled 101 Two-Letter Words, will be filled with original four-line poems written by Merritt. Each of the poems will be based on the 101 two-letter words that are accepted in a game of Scrabble. One of the poems in the book goes:

The country folk say "howdy-do"
but here in town, it's "yo";
they'll say it in the country too
in twenty years or so.
Image via

101 Two-Letter Words features illustrations by Roz Chast. It will be published as a hardcover book and will be released by W. W. Norton and Company in October of this year. The suggested retail price is $19.95. Called "a witty and unique book in celebration of two-letter words" by the marketing team at Norton, the book is already getting endorsements:

"When I have no Scrabble move,
I really cannot bear it.
From Aa to Za, help has arrived —
Why, thank you, Stephin Merritt!" — Lemony Snicket

Now let me put on "You, You, You, You, You" from The 6ths' album Hyacinths and Thistles (another one of Merritt's creative endeavors) before I pull my Scrabble game down from the top of the closet.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Best Advice for Library Careers

"The best career advice I received was the importance of gaining hands-on experience in a library, even if that means doing volunteer work."
~ Stephanie, adult services librarian

I started volunteering at a branch of my local public library. For a few hours every weekend, I shelve books (lately in the always lively children's section), shelf-read in all sections of the library, shelve DVDs and music CDs after locking their cases, and pull expired items from the holds area so that they can be checked back into the system. The longer I volunteer, the more responsibilities I hope to take on.
Following some career advice, I've begun volunteering at the public library, shelving books and other tasks.
Photo credit: cybrgrl/Flickr

Volunteering at a public library is something that I definitely want to do, primarily so that I can get current hands-on experience in a library. Fortunately, the hours that I'm asked to come in for work well with my already full schedule, which includes working full-time in publishing in the daytime and attending library school part-time in the evenings. Once I'm at the library, however, the hours seem to fly by. Still it's a lot to juggle. Stephanie, the adult services librarian, concurs:

"I know that working full-time and finishing grad school is not easy, and trying to squeeze in a few hours a week of unpaid work in a library seemed overwhelming when I first thought of doing it. However, I found that once I was at the library, I really enjoyed my time there and it wasn't overwhelming at all. I knew for sure it would be well worth it in the long run."

Stephanie and other recent library school graduates shared the best career advice they ever got with the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO). In the article "Getting Started in the Profession: New Info Pros Share Their Best Career Advice," Stephanie and her peers had this to say:

"My Pratt [Institute] instructor said, 'Your education in this profession does not end with a graduate diploma at library school. Technology and the field of information are continuously evolving. Stay in step of what is happening and aware of what is to come in the future."
~ Clara, research and reference specialist

"If you study library science and you play your cards right, you can become an expert and aficionado on almost any topic you want and work in almost any field. That advice came to me from the Barnard zine librarian, Jenna Freedman. Interested in law? Become a law librarian. Interested in music? Become a music librarian. Huge Woody Guthrie fan? Maybe you can get a job at the Woody Guthrie Archive! There are libraries and archives for nearly everything, and that is counting all of the private and personal archives that are out there."
~ Caitlin, visiting curator

"'Sometimes we have to let go to run our course.' I followed this advice, and while it was scary, it led me to a new job that I love. I was in a toxic situation at a job when I decided to follow my dream and go back to school for library science. I'm now a librarian at a wonderful school with awesome kids and great coworkers." 
~ Laura, librarian

"Dr. Bea Badden, during a panel discussion, advised attendees, 'Use what you're passionate about as the basis for your career.' There are so many possibilities in the world of librarianship, especially when you consider that the positions or projects which might be the most fitting for you personally might not have the word 'librarian' in the description at all. Focus on what you know you love to do, what talents you have, and be creative: find evidence of those things in job and project descriptions. In my experience, following these small cues will ultimately lead you to a rewarding and fulfilling experience you never could have predicted."
~ Jaime, National Digital Stewardship resident

For additional best career advice from these and other recent library school grads, check out the METRO article "Getting Started in the Profession: New Info Pros Share Their Best Career Advice" at THIS LINK.

Look Out, Honey, 'Cos Librarians Are Using Technology

Yesterday, the head of a county library system came to speak to my class. Looking out at her audience, future librarians in various states of alertness, she said: "If you are entering the library field, know something about technology. Know about computers." Chuckling, she said, "I probably wouldn't get hired today."

Our guest speaker's advice echoes the findings of the Ithaka S+R US Library Survey 2013, released on March 11, 2014, and sponsored by ExLibris, Gale CENGAGE Learning, JSTOR, and SAGE. According to the survey: "New hires are expected to concentrate in emerging and growing areas such as web services; digital preservation; and instruction, instructional design, and information literacy services, with declines expected in areas such as reference, technical services, and print collection management."

Responding to the survey question, "To the best of your knowledge, will your library add or reduce staff resources in any of the following areas over the next 5 years?," those surveyed said they will add resources (hire) in the following areas, in descending order:

  • Instruction, instructional design, and information literacy services
  • Digital preservation and archiving
  • Web services and information technology
  • Archives, rare books, and special collections
  • Assessment and data analytics
  • Specialized faculty research support (digital humanities, GIS, data management, etc.)
  • Electronic resources management
  • Subject specialists and departmental liaisons
  • Development and fundraising

The areas that will receive less staff resources in the next 5 years, according to the survey's respondents, include reference; technical services, metadata, and cataloging; access services (circulation, ILL, etc.); collections development; print preservation and collections management; finance, business operations, and human resources; and attorneys and paralegals. My guess as to why these areas will be getting less support in the future is that a lot of these job responsibilities are either increasingly being outsourced or are slowly being made obsolete due to the growing automation of library services, to more people having personal access to electronic sources of information retrieval, and to more people reading e-books and other electronic literature.

An infographic that I came across confirms that librarians today must take on new roles in this digital age. To see the infographic, go to THIS LINK.

Above image via

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Benedict Cumberbatch Reads Keats

I've become hooked on Sherlock, the BBC television series starring English actor Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role. I was idly standing around the local laundromat one night, waiting for my clothes to dry, when I turned to one of the TVs mounted on the wall. On it was a season 2 episode of Sherlock that featured a freakishly large hound scaring the life out of some poor soul. I immediately got sucked in. I've since started watching the series from the very beginning.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes.
Thank you, interwebs!
Watching Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes, one of the many things that strike me about him is his wonderful voice. Deep and measured, and delightfully articulating the witticisms and observations of this modern version of the storied sleuth, Cumberbatch's voice is both undeniably alluring and quite soothing. Its mellifluous tones have been put to marvelous use in a recitation of the John Keats' poem "Ode to a Nightingale." 

First published in 1820 in the Annals of the Fine Arts, John Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale" has gone on to become one of the most treasured works of lyrical poetry to have come out of the Romantic period. Supposedly inspired by the song of a nightingale that had built its nest in a tree near his home, Keats took pen to paper in the spring of 1819. What poured forth was a deeply personal reflection on mortality, nature, and the human condition.

Hear Cumberbatch recite "Ode to a Nightingale" by clicking on the video below.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

'A Raisin in the Sun' Exhibit Opens at NYPL

Fifty-five years ago this month, Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun opened on Broadway. Premiering on March 11, 1959, at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, it was the first play by a black woman playwright produced on the "Great White Way." 

A Raisin in the Sun playwright Lorraine Hansberry in 1959.
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A Raisin in the Sun was also the first play in the history of Broadway to have a black director, Lloyd Richards. Its nearly all-black cast featured Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil, Louis Gossett Jr., Diana Sands, Ivan Dixon, Glynn Turman, and John Fielder, among others. The show was a huge success. A Raisin in the Sun ran for 530 performances, and the production earned numerous accolades, including the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play.

The original Broadway playbill from 1959.
Image via

On the eve of the play's 55th anniversary, the New York Public Library has opened an exhibit that showcases original items from the 1959 Broadway production. The exhibit, titled "A Raisin in the Sun: Lorraine Hansberry's Dream on Broadway," can be seen in the McGraw Rotunda on the third floor of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue. Items in the New York Public Library's commemorative exhibit include:

  • The original Broadway playbill with Sidney Poitier on the cover
  • The original manuscript of A Raisin in the Sun, with production notes
  • Letters of congratulations from Langston Hughes, Tennessee Williams, Ossie Davis, and others
  • A 35-minute documentary from 1970 on Hansberry running on a loop
  • Photographs from the original cast rehearsal of the groundbreaking play

"A Raisin in the Sun: Lorraine Hansberry's Dream on Broadway" is on display at the New York Public Library now through March 16. Viewing hours are 10 AM to 8 PM on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 AM to 6 PM on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and 1 PM to 5 PM on Sundays. If you're in New York between now and March 16, be sure to check it out.

For more information on NYPL's "A Raisin in the Sun" exhibit, go HERE and HERE.