Friday, March 27, 2015

as usual, i have a lot to say about a thing...

I feel like the library world needs its own rally to restore sanity right now. There are some loud voices on extreme ends of certain issues, but I think the majority of us fall somewhere in the middle, like with US politics. There are some people from outside the field saying some pretty nasty things and I honestly feel like the vitriol has pushed some major issues to the side.

What the hell am I talking about? I'm talking about Lisa Rabey getting sued by Joe Murphy. I'm talking about the reductionist nature of the where the rhetoric has ended up. People who don't work in the field, who've never met any of the people involved, have turned this case into a lot of things it was not. As someone who was close to the case for several reasons, I feel obliged to speak on a few things. 

First, I've met Joe Murphy and worked with him on several projects, one being a special issue of a journal he was editing and I wrote an article for, and the other being a talk series at Yale that he invited me to speak at. He never sexually harassed me, nor did he sexually harass anyone in my presence. 

Second, I know Lisa Rabey personally, and quite well. I don't believe she ever lied. I know she went to a conference, and was told stories about Joe by others, and decided to tweet about what she heard. 

You don't care about my personal opinion, but I'm going to give it to you anyway. I've been a librarian for over 10 years now, and I feel I have a bit of insight into the profession that some outsiders are missing when they look at this case. 

First, I do worry about people's reputation being ruined based on lies. That's wrong. But I worry that people can get sued for tweeting a completely genuine opinion about someone. Maybe Lisa did not use the right words. I personally would not have used the phrasing she used, because I am a far more timid person than she is. But I think it's telling that she could be sued over her words, while there are men on Twitter right now saying vile things to her and others involved in the case, and even threatening violence, but they will not get sued. There's a power dynamic at play here and to pretend there's not is disingenuous. 

I also think that we're in a murky area when we talk about sexual harassment and even sexual assault. A lot of women, myself included, are only just now being exposed to new rhetoric and the stories of others that are causing us to look back at our own life experiences and re-evaluate them. For years we were told that we were being treated in ways deemed acceptable by society, that it's now clear were not, in fact, acceptable. Many of us are horrified to realize that things that happened to us in the past crossed lines and we can finally talk about that out loud, and the effect it had on us. But that doesn't by any means that there's a clear standard for what is sexual harassment or sexual assault. We're all still working this shit out, and it's icky, and it's difficult, and it's not fun for anyone. 

So here's the thing. Having met Joe Murphy, having dealt with him professionally, I did not speak out on his behalf when accusations were made against him, because the truth of the matter was that I honestly couldn't in good conscience do so. Knowing that Lisa was basing her comments on things people had said to her, and having had similar experiences at conferences myself (though NOT involving Joe, let's be clear about that) I felt I had no right to question these women's accounts. To me, there were enough creepy dudes in the field who acted in this way, that it all seemed very plausible. 

So where are these women now? They have chosen not to be a part of this. That's their decision. You can judge them however you want, but I mentioned before that I'm a timid person, so I wonder if I would have had the courage to come forward. As I said  before, sexual harassment is a murky thing. Let's not pretend it's as easy as just saying "I was assaulted." Because it's not. We have our own guilt. Did I get too drunk? Did I flirt? Was I showing too much cleavage? Society has trained us to blame ourselves and we do. So it gets really hard to step forward and point a finger at someone in public when we bear so much of the weight of our own degradation. Margaret H. Willison posted a link to this article, which I think really speaks to the insidiousness of harassment: http://thehairpin.com/2014/10/stories-like-passwords

I also think there's another reason that more people didn't speak out on Joe's behalf, besides themselves having seen this kind of behavior by other library dudes at conferences. There had been, and may well still be, that whole library rock star trend thing happening. While I feel like the profession does in fact benefit by having dynamic, passionate people speaking on its behalf, I think there began to be a disconnect between the people in the trenches, working actual library jobs, and the people speaking on their behalf at big conferences and venues. Increasingly these people were leaving full-time librarianship to go into consulting or professional speaking, and those of us still working full time in the field didn't feel like these people represented us. We didn't like them getting all the attention or winning all the awards, while we felt like we did all the work. For more on that see Julie Jurgens's excellent post ego, thy name is librarianship, or my article on the topic in The Journal of Creative Library Practice.

Thankfully, I honestly do think I've seen this trend dying down, but I think there was a lot of resentment happening for awhile there towards people who seemed to be more passionate about their personal brand than they were about libraries. I'm more than certain that this resentment led me, and others, to judge some people harshly and perhaps unfairly (and in other cases, entirely fairly.) But I don't doubt some good people got grouped in with the bad. I will not give my opinion of Joe Murphy and where he falls on that spectrum. It's not for me to say. I'm trying really hard to balance being honest with being fair, because I do think we could use a little frank discussion here, but I don't think we should vilify anyone in the process.

The point I mean to make with those last 2 paragraphs is just a long-winded way of saying it's possible Joe was not very liked by some people in library-land, and while I'm certain those people weren't plotting his doom, they also weren't going to be bothered to speak up on his behalf.

Now I want to make it very clear that these are just my impressions of the situation. I could be very wrong. Sometimes I'm bad at gauging a situation, and I think I'm speaking on behalf of people other than myself, and I'm waaaaaaaay off base. To me it just feels like maybe some of us are thinking some of these things, but we're dancing around them. If I'm right, then hopefully the sunshine will act as a disinfectant for some of the toxic stuff going on right now in our field. If I'm wrong, then please know that I'm just trying to work though some of these issues and push the conversation in a productive direction, and forgive me for speaking out of turn. I care so deeply about this profession and this community, I don't want us to waste any more of our energy than is completely necessary on in-fighting, when we should be directing that energy towards fighting for libraries.

Going forward, I want us to be able to speak openly without fear of lawsuit, and I want us to be able to go to conferences without worrying about getting harassed OR getting our reputations ruined. It's gonna be tricky for awhile. I don't have a prescription here. Conferences are fun, and you are grown adults who should be able to have fun and flirt and hook up if you want. But please remember to treat your colleagues as colleagues, and not potential hookups. Don't go out of your way to make someone feel self-conscious about their appearance or their gender or whatever. The discussion surrounding codes of conduct are a very good start. Also, don't use the profession as your personal dating service or as a vehicle to advance your personal brand. People might not tell you to your face, but it generally rubs them the wrong way. Or me anyway. There I go again speaking on behalf of everyone.

I'm going to shut the comments off on my blog for a bit, because honestly I'm afraid of trolls. This may sound counter-intuitive when this post is calling for discourse and discussion, but I think Twitter is a more public forum to have those discussions than here. Also, I'm not a brave soul and I'm afraid of people saying mean things to me in my personal space.

Again, I'm sorry if this missive is way off-base. I love this profession. I love the people in it. I feel extremely protective of the profession AND of the community, and I had to get some of this stuff out of my system so I could move forward in peace. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Bracelets for Bewbs part Deux

It's bracelets for breasts part 2! For a $10 donation, I'll send you a fully hypoallergenic stainless steel bracelet (like one of the ones in the pic below), and 100% of the money goes to help my BFF Heidi's mom fight breast cancer. Last time we did this we raised 500 bucks for her treatments and she was so thankful and we all cried a lot (http://theinfobabe.blogspot.com/2012/10/bracelets-for-breasts-recap.html). If you want a bracelet you can send your donation through the link below. Please specify the length you'd like! 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

EDUCAUSE 2014

Brian Farr and I will be discussing our library website rebuild and the ins and outs of successfully using Wordpress as a CMS at this year's EDUCAUSE conference in Orlando, Florida. We'll be presenting at 2:30pm on Tuesday, in Meeting Room W311F-H. [Tuesday schedule]

Our talk, Building Academic Websites (in the Real World) will also be webcast, so if you'll be attending the virtual conference, you can catch us there too!



As usual, I'll include links to any of the resources we talk about, and try to keep the list updated as new topics or questions arise:
And, because animated gifs don't work in slideshare, here's the run-through of the evolution of the new site. Agile development FTW!


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Google Drive for Libraries @ SLA-NY

I'll be speaking at the 2014 SLA NY Conference & Expo (9:15, Social Media track) on Thursday, 9/18/14, at Baruch's Vertical Campus in Manhattan, on the topic of Google Drive for libraries and information professionals. The hashtag is #slany if you'll be there and want to share your experience on Twitter.



Some links and resources I'll be talking about include -

Google Drive "Hacks":
Google Drive Encryption Tools:
Google Drive and Privacy:
I'll also be talking about Google Drive in my book, "Library Knowledge Bases Made Easy", which will be published by Rowman & Littlefield some time in 2015, so look out for that! ;)


Monday, April 21, 2014

want to contribute to #ProjectTiara?

it's probably not tax deductible, but it should be...


(source: http://imgur.com/a/5mZHg)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

New Directions in Information Fluency Conference

I'll be presenting on 4/5/14 at the New Directions in Information Fluency conference at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. If you'll be attending, please consider attending my talk on collaborating with your school's writing center to provide workshops on writing research papers. It's during Concurrent Session III, at 2pm, and part of Panel D on Productive Collaborations (Olin 302).



This co-teaching experiment was actually from when I was still at Stevens, and all the lesson plans, handouts, and exercises were developed in conjunction with (and sometimes solely by) Jennifer McBryan, who is all kinds of awesome. I ended up leaving before we had a chance to get past anecdotal evidence of the program's success, so we never did get to most of the assessment methods mentioned in the presentation.

The most popular workshop we gave revolved around helping students understand the correct way to "use" scholarly sources. As in, how to develop a topic, how to read and understand an academic journal article, and how to responsibly use the content in their own papers. (Those links go to the handouts we used to teach each concept, via Google Docs. Feel free to download, adapt, and use them as you like.)

For the paraphrasing exercise, I would find 3 articles related to the course topic, or a sample research paper topic as outlined by the syllabus, and I'd send the first 2 pages of each of those articles to Jenn, who would then create a paraphrased excerpt from each one. (Here are the sample articles referred to in the above-linked exercise.) She would build some errors into each excerpt, either in the in-text citation, or in the way the writer is using the paraphrase or quote. (We were trying to get them to understand that you can't just pull words from an article, and use them out-of-context. You can't imply that the original author is saying something other than what they were actually trying to say, even if you can make the quote sound like it supports your thesis.)

I have to give all the credit to Jenn for being great at creating these problematic paraphrase excerpts. She was fabulous at making them challenging, but realistic, and I was pleasantly surprised by how adept the students were at catching even subtle misuse of information.

Finally, I've put together a brief reading list of articles discussing Library-Writing Center collaboration:


Thursday, March 13, 2014

#ProjectTiara

i like tiaras. they are sparkly. and i feel special when i'm wearing one. when i was in high school, i was a runner-up for homecoming queen, and instead of all the runners-up (runner-ups?) getting tiaras, as they did every other year, only the queen and the next 2 highest vote-getters got tiaras. this made me sad, because i wanted one. so, like any rational human being with access to a chinatown-esque variety store, i went and bought myself one and wore it to the prom. take that, stupid tiara-nazis!

aaaaaanyway, about a year or so back i discovered that you can buy ridiculously pretty tiaras on ebay for super cheap. they come from china, and i feel kind of bad about the labor conditions of those making them, but at the moment i'm shoving that emotion deep down inside until i can find an ethical-but-reasonably-priced online tiara store. DREAM BIG, KIDS.

so now i have a bunch of tiaras, including 2 3D printed ones! (the first is from Steve Teeri, who made it at the Detroit Public Library's HYPE Makerspace, and the crown from Tyler Rousseau's library's makerspace.)  i especially enjoy wearing them when i'm doing something i don't particularly want to do, like my chores, just because it cheers me up a bit.




anyway, for no reason in particular, i decided one day to send other people tiaras. i feel like my thinking might have gone along the lines of: "oh, this person said they like my tiara, so THEY should have a tiara too!" then the other day i just got it in my head that i needed to send out some congratulatory tiaras. i'm not entirely sure why. i had just found out one of my conference proposals finally got accepted, and i also got a small professional development grant, so maybe i just had celebrating small successes on the brain. also, i'm a huge fan of this kid:



he's so right! you're doing great! you need to give yourself more credit! so, i invited twitter to take part in #ProjectTiara. the rules are simple:
  1. dm me your name and address (i'm @vforrestal on twitter)
  2. tell me of some small (or large!) success you've had lately (it really can be anything. if ever i make it to work on time for an entire week, i'm going to buy myself a freakin CROWN.)
  3. agree to send me a pic of the tiara when you receive it, so i can do a series of posts celebrating your successes, small and large. (if you're camera shy, it can just be a pic of the top of your head, or you can put the tiara on a pet, or really whatever. be creative!)
never mind all that, i made a form! so now all you have to get a tiara is fill out the form at the end of this post, or here.

that's it! really! i'm on a mission to sparkle-fy the world, and to fight the trend in the library world that you have to WIN ALL THE AWARDS! and PUBLISH ALL THE ARTICLES! to be a success. you're out there every day doing a job that makes the world a better place, and you deserve to be celebrated for it. you need to pop on a tiara every once in awhile and remind yourself (and the world!) how fucking awesome you are. 



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UPDATE-- Nicholas Schiller has officially joined the good fight to sparkle-fy the world!!! If you're not a tiara person (which I won't even PRETEND to understand, but hey, to each their own!) head over to OPERATION: BOW TIE and secure yourself a celebratory bow tie!



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UPDATE 2-- We have a tumblr!


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I've had a couple of people ask about helping defray the cost of the tiaras, so if you'd like to donate a few bucks to the cause, you can do so here:


Thank you for your support!!!!

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