Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why buy an MLS?

I'll save you the trouble of reading the rest of this post: if you want to be a librarian, get the MLS. If you don't get the degree, then don't bitch when you don't get the job.

And if you're an administrator, hire people with an MLS to fill those few librarian jobs. Having the degree won't guarantee you get the best candidates, but if you don't support the degree, you can almost guarantee that many of your future librarian candidates will have no library training at all.

Now, to the post:

I haven't done any professional reading since I got a professional library gig. And by professional reading, I mean reading several articles, distilling the main points form the bullshit, then combining that with my thoughts and experiences to create solutions or methods for, umm, stuff. See, it's been so long, I don't even remember why I would do it.

The point is that I'm working. I solve my local library problems with local remedies. I clean the potato chips out of the keyboards. I kick the copier in the right spot. I do the stuff my library gives me. I don't have the luxury of time to question or survey and then to propose theories that may or may not work. Because I'm at work now. So I use my accumulated knowledge and experience and do what needs to be done.

Library school was the time for all that reading. There were lots of rhetoricals:
  • What if you had $25,000 to spend anyway you wanted, but it had to increase library use by albinos?
  • What if all Js disappeared from all the library books?
  • What if the library were replaced with a 5,000 pound ham?
And we read library books and library essays and had deep library thoughts.

The only reading I do now is for me to blog some dick and fart jokes.

Library school made me think about the profession, about the history of libraries and about the possible futures. If I didn't go to library school and just started as a shelver or a page or clerk, then I might know that job, but what else would I know?

Let's say I worked my way up from a clerk to a lead worker to a manager. That's great, but I still would be limited to what I learned at my library about those jobs. And if I moved from one library to another, I might know a few more ways to do things that could help to expand my knowledge of the career. If I had an apprenticeship at one or two libraries, I would still only know what their librarians knew enough about to teach me.

And I think my knowledge of library work would be less if I hadn't gone to library school. Having those discussions about how to create a library in a zero-g environment, or how to print books with only coconuts for paper and ink: these questions expand your understanding of the library as method and as a form, as an abstract and as a concrete thing. Library school exercises your imagination about what libraries are or could be. I don't think any work experience creates an equal environment.

I also think there would be no profession without the professional degree. I think it would become like any other job. There would be people who love it just as there are those who love folding sweaters at JCP. But love does not mean that person has the required skills to make the business succeed. And if JCP closes, then that person would go and fold sweaters at Target.

But there is no business equal to a public or academic library (to a special library, maybe, there seem to be endless models) for you to transfer to when your library bites it. What about the privately run public library? Yeah, what about it? Fuck them. They should get cancer.

What about Certification, you ask? What about it? What if librarianship went the way of Computer or Automobile Mechanics? Do you know what those certifications cost? No? Neither do I. But you should have some idea because you work in a library and you buy or don't buy those books. A+ Certification books and ASE Certification materials? I wonder if you added all those things up whether they would be cheaper than a Master's degree. So, is continual certification training and testing cheaper then the MLS, dunno, but it might be. There's got to be a calculator around here...

I also think that getting the degree is like everything else you do or don't do: you can't know. If you practice your viola, will you make it to Carnegie Hall? If you use heroin will you become a junkie? You can't know these things. Some of the best violists were junkies. Okay, I think I made that up.

So I'm not the expert on this. I can't be. Because it's your life. I can just tell you that I think the degree has value. But what do I know? I'm just a working librarian.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Information may want to be free, but you'll probably go to jail for helping it.

I'm not famous. I don't open a new pair of fresh underpants each day. Even for special days or special events, I still need to evaluate the merits of existing underpants. So in that way, I'm just like you, getting ready for Tim and Molly's wedding, poking through your collection of old and worn undergarments to find ones that won't embarrass you when you drink too much and pass out on the hood of the limo.

Which beings me to Aaron Swartz.  Remember how he got busted for downloading JSTOR articles? You should.

I was having a conversation with my girlfriend when I remembered some of the stuff I'm telling you now. Because I have a truly shitty memory and I can't remember anything until something prompts me to remember. That's why I have tattoos. Ask anyone why I have tattoos and they'll tell you it's to remember. Without all this ink, I would have no memory at all of the 1980s. Yes, that's Maggie Thatcher on my right calf almost close enough to snog Bob Geldof all wrapped in an outline of Live Aid Africa.

So something came up on our conversation and I remembered how when I wanted to "steal" all the magazine articles contained on the CDs at the library. Kind of like what Aaron did. But back in 1988.

Ever since I became aware of magazine databases I wanted to find a way to get all the articles out of them. Before I became a librarian, I had to make a reservation at the college library to use the computer that had access to all the articles I needed. And I thought about ways to download all those articles so I wouldn't have to wait ever again to use that computer. But I never did it.

And when I became a librarian, our library had a huge CD tower with all these articles stored there and I wondered how to get them off of that one computer so they would be easier to distribute to our patrons. You know, move them from that one PC and host them on our web server so all our patrons could search for articles from any of our branches.

And even within the last 5-6-7-8 years, when we'd learn from a vendor that some publisher was pulling content from the databases we pay for, I wanted to copy all the content and make it available even after the publisher pulled out. My reasoning was that we paid for it, so it was ours up till the date it got pulled. And I was going to archive it.

I'm not attempting to compare myself to Aaron, but I'm saying that if I'd had even the tiniest amount of programming knowledge, I probably could have gotten myself fired from any one of my library jobs a long time ago for all this shit I wanted to do.

But I don't think the Justice Department would have gotten involved; I would have just been fired and not one person would have even known my name. And if they did, they'd say, "What the hell did you think was going to happen, asshole?"

And I think that's because I can't program. I'm guessing that I would have been judged as an extremely low profile target and an owner of very common underpants.

Again, I'm not trying to compare my non-event with a real one, but I wonder what might have happened if I'd known someone with skills who could have shown me how to do it.

But in my case, there was clear publisher ownership. So I guess I would have been a thief. Even if this was something our library had paid for.

But Aaron's position was that the JSTOR information was meant to be free, that it shouldn't be trapped behind a pay wall. Maybe. I didn't know the guy.

I don't have the time to explain the how or why of online information or who owns it or what legal rights or expectations a company might have regarding its ability to collect money for distributing that information. But the point is, that someone has legal rights to all these things, but it ain't you.

We call these people, these owners and publishers and content distributors by their collective name: motherfuckers. And all they seem to want to do is fuck with you. There was a time when you could count the companies out to fuck with you on one hand. But not so now. The conspiracy of motherfuckers seems endless.

Because the list is so long, I'm going to just try to list the motherfuckers who prey on libraries, the ones who answer with a cheerful, Fuck You, when we complain about their monopolies and oligopolies.
  • You want that book/magazine/newspaper to remain in print? Fuck You."But it used to be in print." Now it's not. Fuck You.
  • You want that book in electronic format for your library to lend? Fuck You.
  • You want that ebook for the same price as we sell to Amazon/B&N? Fuck You.
  • You want databases priced by actual use and not projected use based on service population? Fuck You.
  • You want lower maintenance fees? Fuck You.
  • You want us to stop increasing prices (when everyone knows that manufacturing/storage/delivery costs are going down)? Fuck You.
  • You want publicly funded science research that's published in our journals to be priced based on our actual cost, which is probably zero? Fuck You. Fuck You. Fuck You.
  • You want us to stop screwing you? We love screwing you. It feels great. Now roll over, we're not finished.
Again, my non-event deserves non-recognition. I'm just saying that if information wants to be free, there seems to be a shitload of companies/governments out there trying to keep it locked up. And one less who could have helped it escape.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


You are born. And some time after, you will die.

You can argue whether you are born when you exit your mother or whether you achieve a sense of understanding before that or even much before that, that you are part of some universal consciousness that exists outside of space and time and that birth and death are simply small blips on your eternal journey. But after you are done being high, you will still die. And so you fear death because almost no one dies when it's convenient.

I had to think about that because I saw an image where someone had sprayed a wall with these words: "time does not exist. clocks exist."

This is one of those naive beliefs held by teens and possibly anarchists. No, not anarchists because they have meetings. But teens, definitely.


In our universe. Time may exist differently or not at all someplace else, but it works here. And a clock is just a tool to measure it. Time exists because the Earth turns and the Sun appears and then relative to our position on Earth, moves elsewhere. Seconds and minutes may seem arbitrary when observed out of context, but the long view of a clock is that it reverse-engineers the day into somewhat equal parts. The event is planetary movement and the clock measures a small part of the cycle in a way that makes us always late for something.


Time is truly the only commodity where there is no standard of value. Love, you say? No. We know what love is worth. We've been told by experts. An engagement rings costs three months salary. You sleep with him on the third date. You buy her a nice dinner and get to spend the night. A lap dance costs around $40 for a 4-minute song. We know these things. And if you don't, you should. Lap dance: $40. The bouncer isn't happy if you can't find the other twenty.

So we know what love costs: love is free.

But Time is a mess to calculate. We attempt to measure it, but what we are really trying to measure is the space between events. That's why Time drags during meetings but flies when you're having fun: time is a measurement of space between events throughout existence.

So time is not arbitrary. Time exists. The day comes, then night. Seasons change. We age. We pay taxes. Anyone who denies the existence of time is someone with really old food in his refrigerator. Don't drink the milk. Don't even sniff it.

But Time is directly related to money. Anything that has value, gains or loses it over time. Books. You know that a new book is heavily discounted in order to increase sales and get the author on the Bestseller List. Then that 40% discount evaporates to 15% once the book is a hit. Until the market becomes saturated and the publisher remainders get marked down to $6.98. But if the book goes out of print and the author sleeps with the president, then all the available copies shoot back up to $100. Without Time, none of this could happen in any observable, enjoyable way.

Time seems even more arbitrary at the Library. Due dates vary by material. Or by demand. This book can be borrowed for 14 days, while this one can be yours indefinitely. That movie is due back next week, but that box set of Game of Thrones can be yours for 14 days. 

But at least the library puts stickers on everything so you know.