Tumblarians, or Tumblr Librarians

In my long-standing love for all things social media, tumblr has been a constant source of online community, news, memes, fandoms, and cute pictures of cats. But only recently did I discover “tumblarians” as a tag used by tumblr users who happen to also be librarians. A quick search of this tag leads to everything from the personal accounts of being a librarian, to news articles about librarianship, to things like What the Librarian Wore, a personal favourite.

One post that recently caught my attention was relating to an exhibit at Ellis Library Colonnade. Relating to my recent post on post-WWII depictions of librarianship, this post by the Special Collections & Archives at Mizzou shows posters from World War One and Two in the “Libraries at War” exhibit.

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From Special Collections & Archives at Mizzou

The overall message from this post is that books are important tools, or “Weapons in the War of Ideas.” How cool is it that at the time, books were likened to the brave men fighting on the battlefield? From the author of the post:

The Library War Service was created in 1917.  It was directed by Herbert Putnam, then Librarian of Congress, and administered by the American Library Association.   In an enormous effort to send books and other reading material to the American forces, the ALA distributed about ten million books and magazines; collected five million dollars from public donations; supplied library collections to more than 500 locations, including military hospitals; and with the financial help of Carnegie Corporation, established 36 camp and military base libraries.  During the Second World War more than seventeen million books were collected through the National Defense Book Campaign launched in 1941 and better known as the Victory Book Campaign.

Books were frequently regarded as powerful ideological tools. President Roosevelt wrote: “No man and no force can take from the world the books that embody man’s eternal fight against tyranny.  In this war, we know, books are weapons.”

 Another post that caught my attention on LibrarianProblems:

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The GIF is awesome, because Parks and Rec is awesome. But the message stopped and made me think. I love social media as a form of personal expression, professional connection, a source of news, etc. But the question posed by this post (What do you do when a patron sends you a friend request on Facebook?) does seem like a tough one. Information organizations, like any other profession, have to deal with issues of personal and professional space. One aspect of the job search will be finding out what different information organizations have policies against this sort of online presence. Does having patrons on Facebook and other social medias influence your professional practice? For better, or for worse?

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Response to “The Librarian,” Vocational Guidance Films 1947

Information professionals know that the role of the librarian has shifted over time. Studying the 1946 Vocational Guidance Film “The Librarian,” part of the Your Life Work series, shows the changing role of the librarian at work and in larger society, and can help illuminate the long-standing features of this profession.

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Film still, (0:14)

The film begins by stating that the two signs you would make a good librarian are a love of books and a love of people (and their love in return). The appreciation for knowledge and customer service skills indeed seem to be continuing themes in the field of librarianship. These “personal qualifications” (9:50), or what we might call soft skills, are still at the forefront of job postings and instruction of librarianship. However, with new spaces like BiblioTech opening up, the idea that books = knowledge = library is contested.

Gender has played a significant role in librarianship, and continues to do so. In this post-war film, nearly all the librarians featured are women. The exceptions are one male reference librarian, and the library administrator (of course). While there is a large majority of women in the field even today, there is still a danger in not representing the male librarian population. Indeed, the film rather innocently portrayed a female librarian being adorably confused by the big words of her male Doctor patron (8:30) which reinforces gender stereotypes in an uncomfortable way.

As this film was most likely circulated to high school students considering their college choices, education is emphasized. The narrator notes that most positions require a college degree and training at a library school. The exception are circulation librarians and those working in small libraries. These imposed rules are particularly striking. Why do small libraries not need educated librarians? Is their limited population somehow not worthy of a college-educated and library school trained professional?

There are also some interesting ways the film tries to make librarianship hip and modern for their young viewers. The narrator emphasizes the variety of materials librarians deal with (like microfilm, music, and movies). There is also the idea that librarians are “vital and essential” in creating “the kind of world in which you want to live.” These two points are perhaps the most changed in the near-70 years since this film was produced. With many politicians and budget makers claiming that librarianship is outdated and replaced with businesses like Google, these thoughts are apparently lost.

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From Intothestacks.tumblr.com

Modern times have also complicated the way librarianship works. I noticed the apparent ease a librarian had finding a blue book about television in her card catalogue system, without information about the author or title. Would this type of information retrieval be as convenient or even possible now? Was this ever possible in anywhere besides small libraries (which may only have one or two books on television)?

In conclusion, this film has brought out many further questions about librarianship that need to be answered in the rest of my MLIS courses. As I further dive into the intricacies of this profession, I will be able to look back on this film and have more answers (and possibly more questions).

The Concept of “Lending the Internet”

I came across a CBC headline that read “Kitchener Public Library wins award for lending the internet.” The article explains a new program that the Kitchener Public Library is hosting, where wifi hotspots (or “internet sticks”) are lent to patrons, enabling them to access the internet from outside the physical space of the library. As the author explains, “the program was started because statistics show nearly a quarter of people living in Waterloo Region – 23 per cent – do not have internet access.” Patrons only need a library card to rent one of the 18 internet sticks.

The reasons I find this article fascinating are as follows:

  1. Some people critique libraries as being outdated and bound to decline, but I think this article points clearly in the opposite direction. Libraries and information centers, just like any other ‘industry’, are adaptable.
  2. When I signed up for statistics in my MLIS program, I anticipated statistics being used to decide what books are acquired or decommissioned, among other things. One thing I did not think of was how a statistic could inform program development. 23% is quite a large fraction of the community to be without access to the internet, and the library responded by creating programming.
  3. Which brings me to access: by providing patrons with the opportunity to take the internet stick out of the building, patrons are no longer confined to the physical space of the library. Increased access to the internet could be critical for libraries (like the one I worked at) where there were only a few computer stations available, so patrons had to wait their turn, or were only allowed a short period of computer usage time. In short, the patron now has more options as to how to access the internet through the library.
  4. The fact that the Kitchener Public Library got the funding needed to finance this costly endeavor is very promising!

Some questions I have after reading the article include:

  1. How could Internet lending change the perceived purpose or design of the library? Will libraries become more known as a place for free internet than as a place for free books in the future?
  2. Would all library systems be able to invest in these programs?
  3. Did the library have to sign a contract with Rogers to gain access to the internet sticks? Does that have any limitations for the patron or the library?
  4. Who pays for the bandwidth?
  5. Are there limits for downloads with these internet sticks?
  6. Is the information from the internet stick sent to a third party for analysis (i.e. ads, etc.) or does it remain private?
  7. Does the idea of “lending internet” change our perception of it as a resource?

Feel free to discuss the article with me in the comments!

Rebecca

Welcome

Welcome to my professional blog! I hope any future or current librarians out there can understand the humour to my blog name. If not, here’s a hint:

I’ve always been tempted to take the Date Due cards out of books because of the connection to my last name, but I refrained as I assumed they were there for a useful purpose. But now with the digital era in full swing, do libraries use these cards anymore? Maybe it’s time to start my collection.

This blog will (hopefully) tackle some of these trends and topics within the field of librarianship and information science. I think it’s important for any professional to keep up to date on these topics if possible.

Whereas my previous WordPress site is saved for informal book reviews and personal thoughts and opinions, this site will focus on my professional development in LIS.