Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Bicycle-Powered Mobile Library in Portland

If you live in Portland, Oregon, you might've seen Streetbooks. Around since 2011, Streetbooks is a mobile library that serves the homeless community in the city.
The Streetbooks bicycle-powered mobile library.
Image via
Streetbooks was started by two Portland residents: Laura Moulton, a writer and artist, and Sue Zalokar, a writer and musician. Their mission was to "provide good literature, and conversations about literature, for those who are often pushed to the margins." Unlike a traditional public library, Streetbooks does not require patrons to show proof of address or ID before they can check out books.

Essentially a library cart mounted on a bicycle, Streetbooks makes the rounds around Portland three days a week. On Mondays, it can be found at R2D2 (at NW 4th and Burnside) and Skidmore Fountain; on Wednesdays, St. Francis Parish (SE 12th and Oak Street); and on Fridays, NW Park blocks, which include Elephant Park and Bud Clark Commons. Its hours are 10 AM to 1 PM.
The book selection offered by Streetbooks.
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Members of the city's homeless community who wish to check out books are issued an official Streetbooks library card. They approach Streetbooks and select the books they want, and the Street Librarian on duty simply uses "an old-school library pocket and a card the patrons sign and leave with us," according to the Streetbooks website. The Street Librarians in charge of Streetbooks notice that, more often than not, the library users return the books to them.

Patrons of Streetbooks are invited to be photographed with their selections, and these photos and their stories, are shared on the Streetbooks website. So far, there are over 60 pages of photos of patrons and their personal stories on the website. Clicking through each of them, it's easy to get absorbed in these stories. Moulton and Zalokar noted that "even though people were living outside or in shelters, it didn't mean that they weren't educated, articulate, and looking for intellectual stimulation." Streetbooks strives to offer that to them.

A Streetbooks patron points to his book pick.
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Streetbooks was started with a Kickstarter campaign and a Regional Arts & Culture Council grant, but it is kept going with the help of donations. Anyone who wishes to donate to the project can send a check to Streetbooks, at P.O. Box 13642, Portland, OR 97213. You can also give to Streetbooks online by going to their PayPal donation page. All donations are tax-deductible (Streetbooks' tax ID number is 45-4081674), and all proceeds "go toward staffing the library shifts, maintaining the bicycle, and buying used paperbacks for the library," according to the Streetbooks website.

Talking about Streetbooks, Moulton told the Portland Tribune, "I could have parked a car and opened my trunk. But this [bike] is eye-catching. People have to make a decision about stopping, and curiosity often trumps avoidance. Sustainability was certainly a consideration, with regards to relationships and accessibility to people."

To read more about Streetbooks, and to donate to the project, go to THIS LINK.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Librarian Humor

From Librarian Shipwreck @libshipwreck:

Me: Why did the researcher like to use microfilm?
Library colleague: It's efficient?
Me: No, she liked to keep it reel.
Library colleague: *rolls eyes*

Image from

DC Public Library Establishing Punk Archive

The nation's capital has a long and rich musical history. From punk to funk, from hardcore to house, and from blues to go-go and more, the District of Columbia has seen a plethora of music scenes thrive within its borders over many decades. One of these music scenes is now getting its own archive within the DC Public Library.
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The DC Public Library announced last week that it is documenting the history of the area punk scene in a new archive: the DC Punk Archive. As part of the public library's Special Collections/Washingtoniana unit, the DC Punk Archive is going to feature "multiple formats including photographs, published materials (books, zines, articles), recordings (vinyl records, tapes, CDs, videos, live recordings, oral histories, film footage), and ephemera (fliers, posters, set lists)." According to the announcement, "Subject content will not be limited to the music itself but could include anything pertinent to the cultural context, i.e. houses, venues, festivals, record shops, radio stations, tours."

The library has issued a call for donations, requesting that if anyone has any of the aforementioned materials, please consider donating them to the library to be included in its archival collections. In addition, the DC Public Library is seeking community support in the form of volunteers. "We invite interested individuals to volunteer to train as community archivist to help with the processing and digitization of donated materials," said the public library. "Digitization of these collections will allow greater access while minimizing handling of original materials. As collections are digitized, we have grant funding to create an interactive online music portal to allow the public to engage with not only digitized music, but associated archival content such as video, images and other documents." The expected roll-out for this digital aspect of the project is spring/summer 2015, according to the DC Public Library.

If you would like to get involved in this effort by donating to the collection, contact one of these library staff members: Michele Casto, special collections librarian, Washingtoniana, MLK Library, at, or Bobbie Dougherty, librarian, Mt. Pleasant Library, at If you simply want more information about the DC Punk Archive, you can contact these same library staff members as well.

If you wish to volunteer to help process and digitize incoming materials to the DC Punk Archive collection, go to THIS LINK. Please note that archival experience is not required. Volunteers will be trained by library staff. The first training sessions are expected to be scheduled in late summer/early fall 2014.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Literary Graffiti, Part 1

Kurt Vonnegut, with a quote from Timequake, in Melbourne, Australia.
Image via Flickr: wiredforsound23/Creative Commons

Friday, June 20, 2014

Why You Should Date a Librarian

Dating sucks. Whether you originally meet in person or online, you will ultimately get your heart stomped on...many, many times. Sorry, but there's no getting around that. However, dating may suck less if you seek out a librarian. Why a librarian? The staff at eHarmony (yeah, I know) have come up with "15 Reasons to Date a Librarian," and I think they're pretty legitimate. (Of course, I'm biased.) 
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Among these 15 reasons is: "Librarians are great Scrabble opponents. ('Great' means 'undefeated.')" As a nearly lifelong Scrabble player (thanks in no small part to my mom) and a recent MLIS graduate, I can say that I would definitely make a great Scrabble opponent. But for me, it's more about stretching my brain and playing a good game than it is about winning the game, although winning is always nice. Even if I am defeated, I'm truly a good sport about it - I'm just happy that someone wanted to play my favorite word game with me.

Other great reasons to date a librarian, according to the eHarmony staff, are:

"Librarians are literate. This is likely not the case for everyone you date. (If you have a fear of books, don't even bother.)" This reminds me of a date during which I began to discuss nonlinear narratives, and I could actually pinpoint the moment in the conversation where I lost him. I'm also reminded of the great John Waters' quote: "If you go home with somebody and they don't have books, don't f*ck 'em!"

"Librarians are well-educated. Many of them have master's degrees." In this day and age, in order to be considered for most library jobs, you must have a master's in library and information science (MLIS). If you already happen to have a library job but don't have an MLIS, you will need to get that degree at some point in order to progress in your job. So, yes, librarians as a group are a smart bunch. We have to be in order to get that degree.

"Librarians make a good, consistent living. They're not rich, but most of them aren't scraping by either. Bonus: They have steady, predictable hours that are easy to plan dates around." I was an English major, and I have an extensive  background in publishing. Later on, I chose to return to school to get my master's degree in library and information science. Neither publishing nor library science are high-paying fields, generally speaking, but for me it's about doing what I love. And it helps that the hours are reasonable and predictable.

"Librarians are doing what they love. Most librarians don't accidentally fall into their jobs. It can be a long journey to finding full-time work." I will say that someone who is happy in their work life is much more likely to be happy in their home life as well. You won't have to hear any grouching about how much they hate their job - none of that sort of negativity would be brought to you. And a happier girlfriend or boyfriend means a happier you!

To see all "15 Reasons to Date a Librarian," see the eHarmony article at THIS LINK.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Librarians and Libraries in Comic Books

Almost everyone who has enjoyed a classic Batman comic book knows that Batgirl was a librarian. Working at the Gotham City Public Library, the superheroine put more than just wayward patrons in their place when she donned her bat mask.
No one ever suspects the librarian: Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, behind the info desk at her day job.
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But you may be surprised to know that Batgirl isn't the only librarian to have been featured in the pages of a comic book. As a matter of fact, librarians and libraries are often at the center of the action in comics. For instance, there is Rupert Giles, the school librarian at Sunnydale High, in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic book series. Then there's the X-Men's Karma, a member of the New Mutants who just happens to work as a librarian at the University of Chicago. In the Superman comics, the Man of Steel's biological mother is an archivist and librarian in the capital city's archives on the planet Krypton. And in the Rex Libris comics, there's Rex Libris himself; he's the no-nonsense head librarian at Middelton Public Library who goes after rebellious borrowers and "loitering zombies" alike.

Mychal R. Ludwig has come up with even more examples of librarians and libraries in comic books for an article he wrote for Admitting that his "current obsession of comic books [was] a vehicle for exploring this topic," he said, "I've gone through my own back-issue and trade collection and included an encouragingly diverse set of librarians and other info-workers." In addition to Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ludwig names Ms. Marvel:

"Here in a one-shot issue of Marvel Comics Ms. Marvel, this public librarian, a completely incidental character, is shown in perhaps the most stereotypical, and some would say negative, way possible. Shelving, older, a Caucasian woman with a tight bun, glasses, and a skirt; if only she told the boys to 'shhh,' then it'd be complete. I think we'd all agree this is the most enduring image of the librarian, unfortunately or not."

Ludwig also makes mention of The Walking Dead:

"In both the comic books and in the television show, our survivors inhabit a somewhat abandoned prison. Within it they find the prison library, full of books, magazines, DVDs, and all sorts of things they hadn't thought or cared about while fending off walkers. The sudden realization that they missed enjoying the fiction that the library offered, or by others, the information offered, really leads me to ponder quite often about the role of information, libraries, and librarians in a post-apocalyptic world. I'd read a book or comic book series that revolved around a librarian who provided survivors with vital information."

In his article, Ludwig also remarks on librarians and libraries that are prominent in My Little Pony, Six-Gun Gorilla, and more. Read it HERE.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

New to Graphic Novels? Start with These

My first introduction to the graphic novel was Maus, Art Spiegelman's gripping, visual representation of what his father, a Polish Jew, experienced as a survivor of the Holocaust. Spiegelman's award-winning graphic novel was assigned reading for a college course when I was an undergraduate. After I graduated from college, I really began to sink my teeth into the genre, picking up now-classic titles such as Ghost World by Daniel Clowes and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.
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All three of these graphic novels — Maus, Ghost World, and Persepolis — are among the "25 Essential Graphic Novels" as chosen by Brie Hiramine in an article for Flavorwire. Calling Maus "beautifully executed," Hiramine says, "The entire tale is depicted in allegorical form — the Nazis are cats, the Jews are mice — but it never feels like a shtick." About Ghost World, she says, "Perhaps you've seen the Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch movie of the same name, but Clowes' original provides a quieter depth to this wispy tale of disaffected youth, complete with perfectly sparse illustration." I'll be honest in saying it was the movie, which also starred Steve Buscemi, that got me interested in the graphic novel. Ditto for Persepolis, which Hiramine explains "depicts Satrapi's life in Iran from age six to 14, during and after the Iranian Revolution." I read both Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return while commuting, and there were moments when I was so moved that I had to fight to keep myself from crying in front of my fellow riders.

Other graphic novels that Hiramine calls "essential" include Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine, Black Hole by Charles Burns, V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez, The Sandman: Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman, Blue Angel by Julie Maroh, and My New York Diary by Julie Doucet. Speaking of Tomine, I've become re-interested in his Optic Nerve series, which began as mini comics that he published himself starting in 1991 (Drawn and Quarterly began publishing them in 1995). I really love his aesthetic and storytelling, and I enjoyed attending personal appearances of his during which he discussed his work. At some point, I'm going to purchase a few of his collected works, including Scrapbook: Uncollected Work 1990-2004.

Reading "essential list" articles such as Hiramine's, it's always interesting to look at the comment section, just to get people's opinions on what works were left off the list. A few commentors felt that Moore's Watchmen should have been included on Hiramine's list of "25 Essential Graphic Novels"; others noted that the works of Harvey Pekar (American Splendor and My Cancer Year, with Joyce Brabner) were blatantly missing as well. Others even questioned if some of the titles on the list could even be considered graphic novels. Indeed, there is a fine line between graphic novels and comic books. According to, "While a comic book will tell a story over many issues, graphic novels more often have their storylines wrapped up in only one or two books." I'm content with that definition; I'm also content with not quibbling over whether or not Hiramine's selections are all truly graphic novels. All I know is that they're good reads.

For all "25 Essential Graphic Novels," see Brie Hiramine's article at THIS LINK.

PS. My most recent graphic novel purchase is the award-winning Drama, by Raina Telgemeier. As soon as I finish the book for my book club, I'm starting it!
Photo by author of this blog

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Anaïs Nin Said It Best

image via wallpaper site on the interwebs

"Every word you wrote I ate, as if it were manna. Finding one's self in a book is a second birth." ~ Anaïs Nin

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Mistaken Assumptions About Library Job Searches

I and a number of friends are newly graduated from library school. Some of my friends are, shall we say, concerned about their job prospects. Their worries stem from the seemingly limited number of entry-level library jobs in the immediate area, the apparent dearth of full-time library jobs nearby, and the fact that many positions require years of library experience that they just do not have.
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However, instead of freaking out about this, let's take a look at the assumptions that they and many other MLIS grads have about the library job search. Upon taking a closer look, prospects for future employment in the library field really don't look all that dire. Perhaps examining what are common misconceptions will make my library school peers feel better.

"Common Misconceptions About Library Job Search" is an article posted on Library Hat that addresses six major worries that new MLIS degree holders have. Just a few of these misconceptions, as stated in the Library Hat article, and the (abbreviated) responses to them are:

1. Since my MLIS degree is brand-new, I won't stand a chance competing with more experienced librarians applying for the same position.
Many employers actually prefer new graduates to experienced librarians for a variety of reasons. Many think that new LIS graduates are likely to be (a) more up-to-date with new library trends, (b) more capable with technology, and (c) more enthusiastic and energetic. These are great strengths to employers' eyes.

2. I will be at a disadvantage if I don't want to relocate. I will be at a disadvantage if I apply for a job far away from where I currently reside.
Finding a job can take less time if you are willing to relocate. It is also true that many employers prefer to hire local candidates for a variety of reasons. Many employers will make different decisions based upon different considerations at different times. These considerations are almost impossible for a job candidate to predict. Simply apply for positions that match your experience and skill set. Do your best at what you can do, and do not worry about things that you have no control over.

3. Applying for as many jobs as possible will increase the chance of landing a job.
This seems simple enough. The more jobs you apply for, the more chances you will have in getting an interview, right? Unfortunately, finding a job is not like winning a lottery. The fact that you submitted your resume and cover letter has almost nothing to do with the chance of being considered as a candidate for the position. You will be considered only if your resume and cover letter show that your are qualified for and likely to be a good fit for the position. Therefore, invest your time and energy in selecting the most relevant jobs to your qualifications and in making your applications for those jobs as good as they can be.

This all sounds like very solid advice to me. Perhaps reading this, my fellow MLIS graduates will feel reassured.

To see all six "Common Misconceptions About Library Job Search," and the full responses to each one, go to the Library Hat article at THIS LINK.

Monday, June 2, 2014

MLIS Grad Openly Doubts Job Prospects on Reddit

On Reddit, a recent MLIS grad expressed frustration at finding a full-time library job. Starting a thread on the popular online discussion board, the grad asked: "Do any other MLIS people doubt they will actually ever find full-time work?"
Some MLIS grads wonder if their help is really wanted.
Image via Tumblr
The MLIS grad, whose Reddit handle is LionOfBabylon, continued: "I've applied for jobs in 3 countries and about 15 states. One on-campus interview. They hired a local." The grad has had "one assistant job and two internships. I'm very lucky to have an assistant job at the moment. It's 14 hours a week, but it at least keeps me fed.... It's a shame. I love my job. I love helping patrons. I just apparently am not good enough to contribute and am starting to think I never will be."

This MLIS grad's obvious weariness generated 72 responses. Immediately, the discussion veered toward records management (RM), with respondents suggesting LionOfBabylon consider it as a career. "I made the jump," said Ashliek, "because I couldn't get a library job in the area where I'd just moved. I miss working in a library setting, but getting double the pay makes it worthwhile!" Agent_Peach chimed in: "Totally agree. I'm in records management for a gold mining company and I love it. Great pay, benefits, security, and I'm at least using some of the knowledge from my degree. And I was hired about 3 months after graduating."

When not recommending a career in records management, respondents offered their own job search stories and encouraged LionOfBabylon to not give up. "It took me two and a half years, moving across the country and back for a temp position, countless applications, and interviews with no response. I was unemployed for 18 months. I was terrified I'd never work in a library again," revealed rarcke. "Then one day I got three phone interviews. One hired me. That was five years ago. It's going to happen to you eventually. Stay strong and have faith." Fish_whisperer said, "It took me over half a year and over a hundred applications before I got three phone interviews and two on-campus interviews. Now I have a full-time job at a university and live halfway across the country. Keep your chin up."

In their response to LionOfBabylon, some Redditors were less than encouraging, however. "Please, save yourself tens of thousands of dollars and a lot of work," said saintstryfe. "Don't waste your time. There's no jobs, no security, and there's no hope of improvement." Ashliek went after the naysayer: "I totally disagree. There were no less than 10 records management jobs posted to recordsmgt-L this week." Saintstryfe countered,"Half of which are postings for jobs where they already have someone in mind, another group where HR people have put insane requirements up, and that last group of attainable jobs will be so inundated with requests that any real applicants will be lost. Also, while related, records management is not archival work." 

One respondent, Exlibrarian, even crunched the numbers: "From 2004-2014, we have roughly 7,000 new graduates per year. So that's 70,000 new MLIS grads in the past 10 years for what is around 120,000 librarian positions. Given the limited/nonexistent growth in this period, you'll need at least 50 percent of all librarians to retire in the period to make room. And next year there will be another 7,000 MLIS holders." Exlibrarian continued, "The math just doesn't work that it's even possible for all new MLIS grads to get jobs, there simply are not enough jobs, and despite what the BLS says, both public libraries and academic libraries have shown no growth. It needs to be crystal clear that it is currently not possible for all new grads to get jobs, and it will continue to get worse."

Nevertheless, others strove to keep the discussion positive. "Spread your wings," urged JimmyHavok. "There are places you might not have thought of, like legislative research bureaus. That's a pretty popular place for MLSs to spend some time in my state." Macjoven offered up some encouraging straight talk: "I'm not going to say, 'Don't give up.' You can give up if you want to. You can keep throwing 'can'ts' in front of you that stop you cold, and keep listening to people who confirm your fears and and pessimism. But it won't help, and you won't feel better. Go do what your passion demands and know that regardless of job title, or even industry, you are already a library professional."

For the full discussion thread for "Do any other MLIS people doubt they will actually ever find full-time work?", go to Reddit at THIS LINK.