“Vocational Awe” and the Awesomeness of Vocation

I don’t think I will ever forget the thrill that coursed through my spine as I walked behind a library service desk for the first time, or the moment of glowing pride I felt when the first patron looked at me and asked, “Can you check this out for me?” and I said, grinning ear to ear, “Yes, sir. Yes I can.” Having gotten a whirlwind twenty hours of training Thursday/Friday/Saturday, I will now be one day a week at the Chanhassen Library and two at the library in Victoria. What both have in common is that, for the first … Read More

New Library Job

Yesterday, I was offered the position of Library Assistant for the Carver County (MN) Library, which I was thrilled to accept. Though I have served as ad hoc support to school library and media centers on many occasions, this is my first real library job and I could not be more excited to start putting what I’ve studied about library operations into practice (and no doubt unlearning a lot of what I thought I knew in the process). If there’s a lesson so far, it’s that persistence pays off. This was my third year running to apply to the county for an … Read More

Of Place and Memory in the Library

Yesterday, I had an interview for a school media position at a local high school. Throughout it, I was repeatedly put in mind of the conversations I have had with my good friend Christopher Cocchiarella, who writes over at Mindful Media Musing on how media technologies impact our experiences with information. He has many times shared with me interesting research on the ways in which paper books outperform electronic copy in reader engagement and retention of information, and I knew he would have smiled when the media secretary, present at the interview, began to tell me how the school had invested a … Read More

Peak Literacy

I was recently invited to interview for a gig answering questions via live chat for fifty cents a minute. What struck me about this was that I was contacted in my capacity as a scholar of world religions and, indeed, my interview included me responding to a number of prompts such as “What caused the Sunni/Shiite split?” Who, I wondered, is paying something, perhaps, on the order of a dollar a minute to ask these kinds of questions? I could see spending that money to ask a medical professional if your problem warrants seeing a doctor (who will charge you … Read More

There’s a Sheep Loose in the Lane

Every week, I help high schoolers with their research projects. I watch them take the assignment, type its prompt questions exactly into Google, and then copy-paste the answer from the search result preview box into their slideshow/paper/spreadsheet. They evince no awareness of whether the text they are plagiarizing is thematically compatible with what they have already copied, or even whether it is grammatically consistent with the previously stolen sentence. On those rare occasions when it does dawn on them that what is in the box may not be what they need, they look at me like I’ve started speaking Welsh when I actually click … Read More

APCs and the Independent Scholar

As Katie Shamash says in her recent review of the impact of article processing charges on libraries, “We’re part way down the road to open access.” This road has been long and perilous, and like most roads leading to terrible unintended consequences, paved with good intentions. The dream of open access academic publishing has been to facilitate scholarly communication and open its channels to wider participation. Subscription charges to academic journals were (correctly) identified as one of the major barriers to participation in research and targeted for elimination. It is a testament to the goodwill and energy of many in … Read More