Monday, April 28, 2014

Teen-Services Librarian Also a Punk-Drag Activist

"If you told me at eighteen that I would want to be a librarian, I would have said that you were crazy," Wick Thomas told Library Journal, which in March selected Thomas as one of its Movers & Shakers for the year 2014.
Wick Thomas sees a career as an advocate in the stacks.
Photo by Sabrina Staires for The Pitch

Thomas works at the Kansas City Public Library in Kansas City, Missouri, where he handles teen services, which includes organizing teen gaming events and other programs. He also does outreach to area high schools. Among his outreach projects is Unheard Voices, a teen literary and art zine that featured the work of about 30 local teenagers in its first edition. Started with the help of young library users in the summer of 2013, Unheard Voices is now distributed to schools and libraries throughout Kansas City. Speaking to Library Journal, Thomas said, "The zine has been an amazing success."

In addition to his work in teen services at the Kansas City Public Library, Thomas is also a self-proclaimed punk-drag activist. While still in high school in rural Missouri, he founded his school's chapter of the Gay-Straight Alliance, which is a student-led organization that provides a safe, accepting, and supportive space for gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, and questioning students at school. In college, he served as the president of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Queer Alliance. 

Today, Thomas is president of Empowering Queer Activists and Leaders (EQUAL), which offers activist and leadership training. However, he is currently "terming out of office for EQUAL," he told The Pitch. An alternative newspaper that is "Kansas City's leading source of sophisticated information," The Pitch recently interviewed Thomas about his life, his activism, and his library work. In the interview, which is in a breezy, easy-to-read questionnaire format, Thomas addresses the following:

Soapbox issues: "We have to support access to public services, protect public education, and move toward universal health care."

Brush with fame: "I was backstage at the True Colors tour and got to dance onstage with Cyndi Lauper during "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," met my idol Joan Jett, made friends with Margaret Cho, sang the finale onstage with Erasure and the B-52's, and then drank with the Blackhearts afterward. That was a good day."

Recent triumph: "I am on the March cover of Library Journal for the work I am doing in the library world. I get to help decide which book will receive the Stonewall Book Award this year and have some really exciting partnerships coming up with local schools and governments. Outside of that, I am terming out of office for EQUAL, a youth empowerment nonprofit that I helped found, and am incredibly proud of the work being done by the young people I've mentored."

For more of The Pitch interview with Wick Thomas, go to THIS LINK. He is truly a Mover & Shaker, as recognized by Library Journal, and is definitely someone to keep an eye on.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Things to Do Before Graduating from Library School

Last night, as I was lying in bed, I had a minor freakout thinking about my life post-graduate school. One month from now, I will have my master's degree in library science. On one hand, I'm both excited and relieved that a three-year-long journey is coming to an end. But on the other hand, I'm thinking: What now?

There's a short list of things you should do 
before graduating from library school.
Image via Tumblr

Library school offered me so much more than enrichment gained from in-class learning. It also led to many new friendships, and it opened up opportunities, both social and professional, that would not have been available to me (and that I never would have known about) otherwise. Library school has been a big part of my life for a nice slice of my life that once it's over... But I suppose I'm thinking about it all wrong. In fact, in having my little freakout, I totally disregarded the 6th item on Briana Marshall's list of six "Things to Do Before You Graduate from Library School."

In a post for the website Hack Library School, Marshall said:

Try not to freak out too much about the future. Graduation brings with it lots of uncertainty, whether you have a job yet or not. There are so many variables; there is always a tradeoff. In my case, my partner of seven years and I will be living in separate cities for the first time ever. Even though I am confident it's the right choice for us and we are both excited for each other, it will be a hard transition. There aren't easy answers. It would be so easy to move from a state of panic over what job I will get into a state of panic about how (if!) we will end up together eventually, but instead I am just going with the flow. I'm choosing happiness.

In other good advice, Marshall recommends that you renew your memberships to professional organizations while you can still use your student discount:

Renew/begin professional memberships. You'll be oh so happy later on that you did this at the student rate, which is fractions cheaper than the institutional rate. This is the last time you'll be able to take advantage of your student status - go for it! I had diverse interests as a student because I didn't know where I would end up in library technology. Now that I know the specific areas I will be working in, it's easier for me to decide what organizations are most relevant to me.

I'm currently a member of more than a few professional organizations, and I will say that as a student member, I enjoy a significantly lower cost of renewing my membership to these organizations. In one case, I was able to join two organizations for the price of one, and I was able to join at least one organization for free - all because I'm enrolled in library school. There are a couple more professional organizations that I'm looking into, both focusing on audio archiving, and at least one international organization. All offer discounts to students (with proof of enrollment/matriculation, of course). Marshall's suggestion reminds me that I should sign up for these organizations while I can still save.

Another bit of wisdom that Marshall offers, and that I will take to heart, is:

See the sights. I'm taking a southern road trip to celebrate graduation and have some fun before my impending move back to the frozen tundra that is Wisconsin. I am also planning lots of day trips and weekend trips to see nearby cities that I just didn't get to over the past few years.

I'm intending to do just that, almost immediately after my graduation from library school. I'm looking at a weekend getaway to a bucolic town just north of the city, and throughout the summer I'm planning to take day trips to cities that I've long wanted to explore and are quick to get to by train. Now that I will have more time on my hands, I want to see more of the country while I can and make the most of this "in-between period" in my professional life.

For more good suggestions on "Things to Do Before You Graduate from Library School," see Briana Marshall's post for Hack Library School at THIS LINK.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Neil Gaiman on National Library Week

Image via Shelf Awareness on Facebook

Why Librarians (and MLS Students) Should Use Twitter

I'm a new convert to Twitter. Although I signed up for the free microblogging service last year, it's only within the past few months that I've come to truly understand its value. And at this point, there is no turning back.
I've enthusiastically embraced Twitter.
Image via

I've found Twitter to be extremely useful for keeping up with library-related news both in my country and abroad. I follow a number of state and national library associations, which tweet about events and activities of interest to their members and anyone else in, or interested in, the field of librarianship. These same associations also inform their Twitter followers about library jobs, as do companies and organizations that tweet specifically about library job openings, which is invaluable to me as a soon-to-be-graduating library school student.

Twitter is also great for keeping up with the goings-on at library conferences and other professional gatherings. As my commitment to the field has grown, I've noticed that there are always conferences, panel discussions, workshops, and other industry events happening, often at the same time. I had recently registered in advance for one library conference, only to find out later that another conference I wanted to attend was taking place on the same day. Thanks to Twitter, I was able to keep up with the developments at the other conference because attendees were actively live-tweeting it.

There's been a lot of talk lately about "branding" yourself and "managing your online brand." I've realized that Twitter is a great way to cultivate the image of yourself that you wish to present to prospective employers, professional contacts, or like-minded people in your areas of interest. How you come across online can either help or hinder you, and it's better to use your online presence to your best advantage. Tweeting about career interests and academic pursuits in a way that's personal and reflects your personality, but is also professional-sounding but still interesting, can go a long way in helping you cultivate your "online brand."

In her article for, "Top 3 Reasons to Use Twitter," Alexandra Janvey echoes my points on keeping up with the profession and following conferences. She also says that Twitter has helped her find a sense of community within the library profession. To see how you can better use Twitter as a librarian or library school student, check out Janvey's article at THIS LINK.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Independent Bookstore Survival Tips

The rise in rents, spread of corporate chains, popularity of online shopping, and increase in e-book reading have made it difficult for small bookstores to survive.
BookCourt in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, is doing more than cobbling together a living.
Photo via

Despite it all, some indie bookstores are actually thriving. How are they doing it?

Using six independent bookstores in Manhattan and Brooklyn as examples, New York magazine points out how small booksellers are not only surviving but thriving in the current climate. What's their secret? According to New York magazine, for a small bookstore to be successful these days, it would help if it:

1. Owns the building in which the bookstore operates. This is the case with BookCourt, located in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. The owners of BookCourt, Henry Zook and Mary Gannett, bought the building, 163 Court Street, back in 1984 for a mere $160,000. By buying the building outright, Zook and Gannett have avoided the fate of some of their fellow booksellers, who are struggling with or have fallen victim to skyrocketing rents.

2. Sells the space for a commercial shoot, as powerHouse Arena occasionally does. powerHouse Arena is housed in a cavernous, 10,000-square-foot space that is in a riverfront neighborhood and onetime warehouse district in Brooklyn. Since the bookstore has so much space at its disposal, owner Daniel Power rents some of it out for photo and advertising shoots, making a pretty penny. In fact, just one major commercial shoot - say, for a big Internet provider - could cover the store's rent for an entire month.

3. Outlasts the nearby Barnes & Noble location. Operating on the quiet corner of West 10th Street and Waverly Place in Greenwich Village, Three Lives & Company noticed an uptick in business after the Barnes & Noble up the street closed. "Suddenly," owner Toby Cox told New York magazine, "people realized we were here. I never thought of Barnes & Noble as a competitor. I didn't think our customers overlapped. But after they closed, I realized they had been taking our customers after all."

For more tips for small bookstore survival, spotlighting three more independent bookstore success stories, check out the New York article "6 NYC Independent Bookstores That Are Thriving" at THIS LINK.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Friday, April 11, 2014

Missed Connections at The Strand

The Strand is among the oldest bookstores in New York City, and it's famous for its "18 miles of books." It's also the site of more than a few "missed connections."
Missed Connection no. 2 @ The Strand, via

Browsing "missed connections," in which someone who felt as if he or she "shared a moment" with anther person and, in an attempt to reconnect, posts an ad looking for that person on craigslist, can be quite amusing. Hoping for another chance at love (or perhaps something less romantic and more carnal in nature), a man who was shopping at The Strand posted this "missed connections" ad on craigslist yesterday:

To the lady organizing the health books at the Strand - m4w - 48 (East Village)

"I was wearing the blue jacket and reading pages of The Antidote as you organized and packed the table full of health books at the Strand. You were focused on your task and that impressed me, plus I dig your purple ornaments."

I'm genuinely curious about what her "purple ornaments" could be. Maybe they're earrings? Or some sort of hair accessory? Or perhaps a tattoo? At any rate, I wish this guy the best of luck. (Having been to The Strand, I can attest that those who work there are an attractive bunch.) Another missed connection at the bookstore inspired the illustrator Sophie Blackall to recreate it on paper for her book Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found, published in 2011 by Workman Publishing Co. In her book, Blackall illustrated the following "missed connection":

Polka dots in the Strand - m4w - (Union Square)

"Ack! 'Round 7pm or so...I was browsing the shelves and saw you on the other side. I swear I glimpsed our entire future together in that brief moment. It was beautiful. And then someone asked you for the time. I mean c'mon, who doesn't have a damn time-telling device of some sort these days! Oh, if only I'd thought of that..."

The poor guy was obviously annoyed that another shopper at The Strand put the moves on the object of his affection faster than he could. Let's hope that these two were able to reconnect after all because of the craigslist ad, which got a much higher profile than it normally would have, thanks to Sophie Blackall illustrating it for her book.

If you ever go to New York, spend an afternoon shopping at The Strand. Then maybe you, too, will be the focus of a bibliophile's search for true love in a "missed connections" ad on craigslist.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tips for Librarians Doing a Long-Distance Job Search

As I near the end of library school, I'm thinking about packing up everything that I own and moving to a different part of the country (or even the world) for a library job and for a change of scenery. So what should I, and others who are considering relocation, know when doing a long-distance job search?
Travelin' down the road for something new.
Image from

Amelia Zavala Vander Heide has tips to offer on this very subject. In an article for titled "Job Hunting 300 Miles Away," Vander Heide shares her own experience of being newly graduated from library school and planning a cross-country move with her husband, who was applying to colleges in California. "It was hard graduating and sitting on my degree for a few months while my husband and I waited for decision letters from colleges throughout California," she said. "When I knew we were for sure moving to the Bay Area and moving at the beginning of August, I finally knew I could start sending out applications." So Vander Heide's first tip is "Timing, timing, timing." But "how soon is too soon" to apply for a position that's in another part of the country?, she asked. Many would say the sooner you apply, the better.

In addition, Vander Heide advises that you "Know the area" where you're planning to move. I have to admit that I wasn't familiar with my current city when I first moved here, and everything worked out quite well. Still, "understanding the geography helped me narrow my job hunt. I was moving to an area of great opportunity, but did I really want to commute more than an hour each way? Knowing and really understanding the population and the economy has helped me immensely in public librarianship, even though I do not live in the city where I work," said Vander Heide. I suppose it would be ideal if you have family members or friends who already live in the area where you would like to move to. That way, you could visit and while there take a look around to get a sense of things. If your family or friends are especially generous, maybe they'll offer you a couch to crash on or a spare room to live in while you get your bearings - and start your job - in your new city or town.

Amelia Zavala Vander Heide has other helpful advice for doing a long-distance job search, including how to explain a relocation to prospective employers and what to do if you're contacted for an interview for a job that is hundreds of miles away. Read what she has to say at THIS LINK. And good luck!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Atypical (Real) Rules for Library Conduct

While volunteering at the library, I sometimes pause to look at what's posted on the walls. I've noticed a calendar of events, as well as artwork by local artists. I've also caught sight of a sign that spells out what behavior isn't OK in the library, for instance, smoking, petitioning on the premises, roller skating. These rules seem typical. However, in other libraries, rules for patron conduct are quite atypical.

Mental Floss has rounded up "9 Very Specific Rules from Real Libraries," and some of these library rules are indeed unusual. But rules generally are made for a reason, and it's amusing to think about what could have been the incident that caused management at these particular libraries to put their foot down. In the case of the public library housed in Goodnow Hall, which is in a hilly, woodsy area of western Massachusetts, it's not hard to guess how this sign came about:
Image via Mental Floss via Rock Creek on Flickr

Yet in the Yonkers Public Library in Yonkers, New York, one has to wonder if one too many kids have come in carrying balloons that inevitably burst, nearly scaring the life out of older patrons and/or library staff, and thus warranting this sign:
Image via Mental Floss via Scouting New York

I'm wondering: how could kids bringing balloons into the library become a common enough occurrence for library management to put up the sign to begin with? Is there a carnival across the street? A party supplies store next door? A clown on the corner giving away balloons? The mind reels. (For the record, I have yet to see a kid or parent bring a balloon into the library where I volunteer, and I've been there for months. So what's going on in Yonkers, New York?)

But I must say say that this sign, posted in a library at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, is completely understandable:
Image via Mental Floss via LibraryKitty on Flickr

It's nice that patrons want to be helpful. (The other day, I was tickled watching a toddler return books to a shelf in the children's section. It was clear that the kid, who couldn't have been no more than two years old, knew the general area where she - or her caretaker - got the books from. But of course, she didn't quite know where they should go. I thought it was adorable that she made the effort, and I was happy to reshelve them.) But reshelving books is what I and other library volunteers and staff are there for, among other things. Leave it up to us. 

For all "9 Very Specific Rules from Real Libraries," see the Mental Floss link HERE.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Proverb About Books from 'Sherlock'

Image via

"A book is like a magic garden, carried in your pocket."
~ Chinese proverb from Sherlock, season 1, episode 2

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

More Librarian Misconceptions

"'re a librarian? Then you probably read a lot of books, huh? Right?"

Nope, not really. In my very first class in library school, the professor told us point blank, "If you want to become a librarian because you 'love to read' and think you'll be reading all day, then you better reconsider your choice of profession." 
She's a librarian and she's not old or wearing her hair in a bun, although she is wearing a cool Ewok hat.
Image via

These days, a librarian's job is largely technology and marketing-oriented. And a lot of what librarians have traditionally done when it comes to books - checking them out, selecting them for the library, etc. - is increasingly being automated or outsourced or done by paraprofessionals. Speaking on a personal level, I'm far too busy these days to pick up a book that's not a textbook. Between work, library school, volunteering at the library, and trying to maintain a semblance of a social life, I just don't have time to read for pleasure.

"I'm sure you read a lot" is just one of many misconceptions that a lot of people have about librarians. "Not all of us are book nerds," said Aimee Graham. "There's the art, culture, tech-y, and music nerds, too. Most of us have a specialty, while others are generalists. Like everyone else, we have our hobbies." Graham took up the task of "Debunking 10 Librarian Misconceptions" in a March 24, 2014, article for Some of the other misconceptions about librarians that Graham succinctly addressed in her article are:

You need your master's to be a librarian?
Yes. In most positions (I have seen a few requiring a bachelor's and experience), an ALA-accredited master's degree is required. In some positions, two advanced degrees are required, all depending on the institution and subject of the position.

Why are so many librarians not from the area?
We are a pretty nomadic people. If you want to move up, that sometimes includes moving out. Jobs can be difficult to come by in the areas surrounding ALA-accredited schools, popular cities or rural areas, so be willing to relocate if you want to advance.

Aren't librarians old and grouchy, wearing cardigans and hair in a bun?
Sure, there are some still in existence, but the Hollywood stereotype is almost dead. A great deal of librarians today are younger, many with tattoos, piercings, and even multicolored hair and extremely outgoing personalities. But it depends on the environment in which we work, so it varies.

Don't librarians just stamp books?
Those duties are usually saved for student assistants or circulation staff, and very rarely will a physical stamp be used (a lot has gone electronic). We do a wealth of duties, ranging from reference and instruction, web design, webinars, professional development, etc. We are far more advanced than just stamping books (although there is nothing wrong with that duty in itself).

Stereotypes about who librarians are, what librarians look like, and what librarians do are amazingly persistent. But with her article for, Aimee Graham has done her part to help dispel old notions about an evolving profession. To read all 10 librarian misconceptions that Graham has debunked, see her article at THIS LINK.