I have a new column published at the Intercollegiate Review site today, in which I meditate on the place (if any) of the library in today’s educational institutions.
But mostly I play it for laughs.
Here’s where it would be easy to launch into a screed against this newfangled digital information age. Shelby Foote once said, “A university is just a group of buildings centered around a library.” This was, of course, pure idealism. I doubt any institution of higher learning has literally prioritized the library since that one in Alexandria burned down.
And who am I to complain? If digital media are the enemy, I’m Benedict Arnold.
Counting down the last two days of my librarian career. I am not doing well, thanks for asking. Sleeping badly; fuzzy-headed at work, where I flounder to remember to tell people the things I need to tell them before I surrender my keys. Training my boss in the new library management system, which I haven’t yet had time to master myself. Trying – probably with little success – not to be a grump.
I feel a little like a man on death row – half terrified of the end, half wishing to get the bloody thing over already.
The interior turmoil has exterior manifestations – external to me. Stuff is being torn out. Stuff is being brought in. Half the things I’m teaching my boss may prove to be unnecessary, because they’ll be changing to other technology anyway. But I don’t know these things for sure, so I share my antique wisdom.
I’m still skeptical about the operational plan for the library. I may be less than ideal as a resource person to whom students may appeal to for help, but the new alternative seems to be nobody at all, most of the time. I find it hard to believe an absence is preferable to my presence. There will be assistants around in the afternoons, but that’s not when most of the students will be using the resources.
But, as I keep telling myself, it’s no longer my circus.
Men must endure their going hence, even as their coming hither. The readiness is all.
If you’re one of the multitudes who follow me on Facebook, you may have noticed my post last night in which I asked for prayer, over a personal matter I did not reveal.
This blog post is to explain my situation.
I lost my job yesterday (Monday). I wasn’t told to pack up my stuff and get out; my job ends at the end of the month, and I have the option of working four more months (half time), or two months (full time).
But my present job will no longer exist.
This is due to altered circumstances, circumstances that have changed radically in the roughly five years since I started graduate school. At that time our accrediting agency demanded that a school must have a full-time librarian with a master’s degree.
Since then, the market value of a degreed librarian has fallen pretty steeply. Today the agency only asks that there be a librarian with an MLS somewhere around the place, occasionally. The operation of the library is assumed to be largely automated. Books themselves have become secondary to electronic services, which are the domain of IT people.
Bottom line: A fair amount of money (I won’t say a lot) can be saved by cutting the position of Librarian. I’m not entirely sure how they plan to get the actual physical work done – accessioning and processing, etc. – after I’m gone. But it’s no longer my problem.
I have small hopes of finding another job in the library field. What happened to me is happening everywhere. The few jobs that remain in the field are probably too technical for me.
So if you know of any copywriting jobs, or any openings for Norwegian-to-English translators, or publishers looking for sophisticated Christian fantasy, or anything else I might be adequate at, please let me know.
And pray for me. Thanks.
Via Dave Lull, an article from Literary Hub. Xhenet Aliu explains how writing makes her a better writer:
A natural-language user might type into a search engine “hospital rubber tube blood infection,” and the information pros who index articles would have had to predict that “rubber tube” might, in this context, equal catheter and return articles like “Infection prevention with natural protein-based coating on the surface of Foley catheters: a randomised controlled clinical trial.” There’s not a whole lot of zing in a title like that, but there is a lesson in how it was retrieved; aren’t writers also responsible for intuiting miscommunicated needs, and articulating that which has been insufficiently expressed? Bad writing ignores natural language in favor to chase the artificial zing, which is what makes purple prose so offensive—instead of using language to facilitate access to meaning, it obscures it with yet more imprecision. Good writing understands and respects natural language, and it considers it in its responses. It’s for the best that writers aren’t paid by the syllable.
I haven’t done a Lileks-esque “day in the life” post in a long time.
But your string of good luck is over. I haven’t finished reading a book today, and I’m fresh out of links.
How’s the writing going? It’s going. Erling 5 (I’m pretty sure I’ll come up with a better title given time) is stalled at about an estimated 40 or 50% of its final length. This is the standard half-way (or 2/3 way) slump I generally experience with books. I know where the story is going, and have a general idea of how it will come out. But I have to build a bridge to the rest of the book, and I’m a little vague on schematics and materials.
So I’m studying what I’ve done so far, and I’ve solicited comments from a trusted friend. Usually the answers to these problems can be found in stuff you’ve already written but not thought out sufficiently.
Today in the library I interviewed a prospective volunteer. I think she’ll be a great addition, and she has a library degree, which never hurts.
I called a guy about my garage door. I’ve had it in mind to get a new one for some time. My present one is extremely old, made of wood, and heavy. It runs loose and sits crooked. From time to time it jumps the track, and I’ve called a guy to fix it. I’ve grown to trust him, so when I called him today about the thing breaking down again, I asked him to sell me a new steel door with an opener. It’s unlike me, but I’m tired of living in the first half of the 20th Century, door-wise. We agreed to meet at my place at 6:00 p.m. When I rolled in about 5:30, he was actually just ahead of me. We did a deal. I could probably save some money if I invested time in research and taking bids, but this guy’s cut me slack in the past, and I’d feel bad giving the job to anyone else. It’ll be a couple weeks to get it, because the width is non-standard. Continue reading Home improvement
A character I had to read a lot about in the previous couple years was Melvil Dewey (a spelling reformer, he reformed his own first name), the father of modern librarianship and inventor of the Dewey Decimal System. He was a crank generally, but he left his mark.
Atlas Obscura today has an article about another of Dewey’s projects — he didn’t invent it, but he promoted it heavily. “Library hand” was a form of handwriting librarians were expected to master before typewriters became ubiquitous.
Influenced by Edison and honed via experimenting on patient, hand-sore librarians, library hand focused on uniformity rather than beauty. “The handwriting of the old-fashioned writing master is quite as illegible as that of the most illiterate boor,” read a New York State Library School handbook. “Take great pains to have all writing uniform in size, blackness of lines, slant, spacing and forms of letters,” wrote Dewey in 1887. And if librarians thought they could get away with just any black ink, they could think again real fast. “Inks called black vary much in color,” scoffed the New York State Library School handwriting guide.
My MLIS training was deficient. They didn’t teach us a thing about this.
It’s the roughest week of the year for this librarian.
First week of school. I’ve already done my orientations (a lecture and walk-through for Bible school students, a walk-through for seminarians). I’m training two new assistants (most years I have a junior and a senior assistant, so there’s only one to train at a time. But things happen). And I have a lecture to do on writing academic papers, tomorrow (I’ll be doing that with less practice than I hoped). And I’m putting together an article on the Reformation in Norway, for the Georg Sverdrup Society newsletter, deadline coming up.
Oh yes, I sell textbooks, too.
I’m not complaining. The days go quickly, and I’m not bored.
I also agreed, in a preliminary way, to tutor a seminary student in Norwegian. But that won’t happen (if it happens at all) until next year.
Oh yes, the Viking Age Club will be at the Nordic Music Festival in Victoria, Minnesota this Saturday. I’ll be there if I have any strength left.